Performance & Reliability through Precision Engineering
Hydrospace Group is dedicated to providing cost effective, innovative, high precision and reliable solutions for components, systems and vehicles designed to work underwater, from 20 to 20,000 feet. The dedication is rooted in the realization that the future will continue to demand new tools and methods to increase subsea productivity. These solutions will inherently combine a wide range of manned and unmanned technologies that need to work in concert. The harsh nature of this environment across the globe’s oceans demands the highest levels of performance to achieve safety and reliability that will ensure commercial viability.
Background & Vision of the Future
All industrialized nations are acutely aware of the strategic importance of engineering infrastructures in support of ever competing global economies. Maintaining infrastructures in water, as on land, requires periodic inspection, assessment, and remediation.
Submerged maintenance, intervention, and damage repair have always been more difficult and more expensive than equivalent work on land. Underwater activities are constrained by effective access which in many ways is more challenging even than in space. At a depth of only 300 feet, the pressure is over 10 times that at the surface; at 4,500 feet, the pressure exceeds one ton per square inch. Visibility is often limited by silt, plankton, or other organisms. The deeper you go the darker it gets; at 400 feet there is very little sunlight, even on the brightest of days. Temperatures and currents can change dramatically with small changes in depth or position. Rusting and corrosion are accelerated.
The future holds a great number of global infrastructure problems. The American Society of Civil Engineers, for the second time, rates America’s infrastructure with a cumulative grade of D requiring an estimated 5 year investment need of $2.2 trillion[i].
Of particular note, submerged infrastructure challenges include dealing with the following:
From 1918 through at least 1970, hundreds of thousands of tons of chemical warfare agents, munitions, and dangerous chemicals were intentionally thrown into oceans all over the world and abandoned [ii] [iii]. This looming hazard is widespread throughout the Northern Europe, legacies of WWI and WWII but extends to all parts of the world that have dealt with modern munitions in the past 100 years.
Steel drums on ocean floor.
Millions of barrels of oils and industrial products have spilled or been intentionally discharged into lakes and oceans with much of it settling on the bottom. Oil transport demands a relentless effort to improve safety and mitigate risk as the scale of potential disasters increases. As shipping of heavier oils increases across the globe, so does the risk of hazardous spills. Today, renewed Arctic exploration opens entirely new risk elements of oil spills under ice.
Decontaminating diver returning from working on oil spill.
An international survey[iv] has identified over 8,500 sunken shipwrecks in marine waters around the world during the past century. More than 1,500 are sunken tank vessels and nearly 7,000 non-tank vessels contain 140+ million barrels of oil and other hazardous materials. Potential sudden massive spillages from these wrecks, 75% from WWII, pose a continual risk across the globe.
Artist rendering of a shipwreck on the ocean floor.
In the past 20 years non-native fish have invaded the entire Caribbean and western Atlantic, and, with no natural predators in their new habitat, begun to eliminate native species. This has a direct impact on the balance of the coral reef ecosystems and the geometric progression of the invasion poses grave economic and food supply concerns for all nations in the region.
Seven lionfish at about 150 feet deep.
Infrastructure & Dams
Today, there are approximately 850,000 dams worldwide, of which more than 40,000 are categorized as large dams. The U.S., which saw an era of large scale dam construction in the mid 20th century, has a dam population that approaches 75,000. Many of these dams are now in danger of failing, some of them catastrophically, due to faulty or outdated construction or simple aging. Dams need effective and regular underwater inspection and maintenance.
Aerial view of dam.
Diversification of power sources pushes new constructions of many types into coastal and underwater areas in the world. From tidal generation systems to deep ocean oil wells and large scale wind farms, all depend implicitly on the ability not only to build them, but also to maintain, inspect, and repair them.
Wind farm in the North Sea.
The Looming Danger
Out of sight and out of mind — for the moment. It will not be long until containers rust through and release chemicals or large or small infrastructures fail and there is noticeable damage to the ecosystem and the economy.
The Real Challenge
The challenge in underwater work is doing it in an increasingly efficient and safe manner. Just as the plow, the tractor, and the combine were force multipliers making the farmer more productive by orders of magnitude, technical innovations make working in the water, at every depth, more productive. The past century has clearly demonstrated that automation increases productivity primarily where the task is repetitive. Mechanization – leveraging the human intellect at the controls of powerful machines — increases productivity where the task is new or non-repetitive. A large part of the solutions will come first from human efforts in the field with better tools and technology assistance.
Hydrospace Group’s High Reliability products and services deploy human expertise and technological innovations to underwater activities. We partner with select technology companies and integrate the capabilities of leading experts and companies from around the world to solve problems globally. Hydrospace Group looks ahead at the work facing engineers and service providers for the next 50 years and realizes that in order to accomplish all this work in an economically feasible plan, companies and countries will require increases in productivity not of 25-50% but by one or two orders of magnitude.
The next two generations face challenges of creativity from these tasks and will need tools that are yet to be developed in the minds of young men and women in the labs of Hydrospace. It is about the power of imagination and the integrity of precision engineering.
[i] American Society of Civil Engineers, 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Reston, Virginia. 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. ISBN 978-078441037-0. 2009. 167 pp.
Retrieved from http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/sites/default/files/RC2009_full_report.pdf
[ii] The American Salvage Association, 801 N. Quincy Street, Suite 200, Arlington, VA. Wrecks of the World II: Evaluating and Addressing Potential Underwater Threats. Conference topic, June 6-7, 2011.
Retrieved from http://mitags-pmi.org//app/webroot/pdf/WOW_II_Brochure_03-28-11.pdf
[iii] Department of Defense. U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Historical Research and Response Team. Off-Shore Disposal of Chemical Agents and Weapons Conducted by the United States. March 29, 2001. 15 pp.
Retrieved from http://www.dailypress.com/media/acrobat/2005-10/20152941.pdf
[iv] Bearden, David M. Congressional Research Service. Resources, Science, and Industry Division. U.S. Disposal of Chemical Weapons in the Ocean: Background and Issues for Congress. Updated January 3, 2007. 25 pp.
Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33432.pdf