Remotely operated vehicles (ROV) capable of operating at greater depths are under development by research institutions and commercial manufacturers. ROVs are essential to the development of offshore oil and gas reserves below ocean waters 3000 to 4000 meters deep. ROVs come in many shapes and sizes. Heavy-duty models can weigh several tons and have 250-horsepower motors. The largest are used to dig trenches for laying underwater pipelines. ROVs of 15 kilograms or less can examine the interior of pipelines and other small cavities or carry out tedious operations, such as checking ship hulls for terrorist devices. Larger ROVs are used at depths down to 1000 meters. DOER Marine in Alameda, California is working with Northern Illinois University to develop an ROV capable of being lowered through a borehole drilled though an ice sheet to enter the underlying ocean. ROV manufacturers are working toward super-reliability, so that vehicles can be put on the sea floor to operate for six to eight months at a time and be based at subsea facilities.

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