AQUASIGN’s subsea ROV trials, retrofitting Aquasign and testing our new Lumino material in open water…
The start of July saw our director, Emma Learmonth, over in Fort William, where she was observing the latest product trials for AQUASIGN.
We caught up with Emma to find out more about the trials and what she’d discovered under the surface of beautiful Loch Linnhe!
So, Emma — tell us about what you were doing down at Fort William…
I was in Fort William for a couple of days to observe AQUASIGN’s first in-house scoped ROV trials. These took place on a loch barge where I was looked after by the fabulous team from Fort William Underwater Trials.
This a great company with highly experienced and trained personnel as well as excellent facilities to ensure all our scope needs were met. They have a variety of structures there at the Loch, both permanently situated on the seabed and suspended.
We got to spend some time really exploring how Aquasign markers and the fixing accessories perform in various conditions. We carried out tests at depths of 35m, 50m, and 100m.
How did this trip differ from the usual trials AQUASIGN carries out?
This trial was out in open water, whereas we normally use a more controlled tank-type environment. Initial concepts and materials are originally tested and qualified by Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen.
Working in laboratory conditions means we can quickly and easily mimic a variety of marine environments and conditions, including deepwater zones with extremely low temperatures and high pressure.
That’s ideal for when we’re testing our materials and products — we want to make sure Aquasign is suitable for every subsea application. But on this occasion, there were a couple of specific things we wanted to explore.
And those were…?
First, ROVs — remotely operated vehicles. We have a variety of ‘retrofit’ installation options and I wanted to get a look at them being fitted. I wanted to see first-hand how our materials and fixings could be used.
Second, established marine growth. There’s a structure at Fort William that has about five years’ worth of growth on it. I wanted to confirm that our magnet fixings would perform well on a structure that hadn’t been cleaned for a prolonged period of time.
Third, our Lumino range — highly reflective material designed especially for deepwater. We needed to see how it performed and how visible it really was in low visibility conditions.
Let’s start with the ROV trials. What did you discover?
Being able to see the remotely operated vehicles in action has been a really helpful way to get first-hand knowledge of our retrofit installation options, and how ROVs handle those.
The trial centre has a variety of frames, chains, ropes, pipes and surfaces of varying sizes, dimensions and conditions. So we were able to see, in real-time, how the ROV coped with the challenges of installing Aquasign across a range of surfaces.
Will this change the way you design Aquasign’s retrofit fixings in future?
Absolutely. Currently, our retrofit installation fixings are custom-made to our customers’ unique requirements.
We design all our fixings with ease of use in mind, whether they’re being installed by a diver or an ROV. But there’s nothing like practical exploration to show you where your product can be enhanced.
The ROV pilot team were very valuable here; sharing past experiences and ideas on further product enhancement.
This trial is the first step towards creating an off-the-shelf retrofit solution that will work with all standard ROV tooling. It’s a pretty exciting development.
And what about the marine growth? How did the retrofit options handle it?
The submerged structure at the trials centre has been down there for about five years, and there’s marine growth up to 5cm-thick on parts of it.
I’m happy to report that, as expected, our ultra-strong magnet fixing attached securely and without a problem.
We do always recommend that customers clean their asset before retrofitting an Aquasign, but this is going to be good news for projects on a tight deadline and/or projects requiring temporary signage for a particular inspection.
OK, let’s talk Lumino. It’s the extra-bright Aquasign for deepwater applications, right?
Yes. It’s a completely new product, designed to be seen clearly from long distances in very dark, low-visibility marine environments.
Lumino is perfect for deepwater applications where marine growth is much slower. So rather than antifouling being number one priority, we’re leaning more to the visibility side of things — hazard identification and awareness.
It’s also been created with moveable equipment in mind. When an ROV is operating it has various ‘tethers’ connecting it to the vessel or structure it’s operating from.
These cables can get tangled up quite easily, our flexible Lumino material can be attached to make sure key parts of moveable equipment are instantly identifiable.
How did Lumino perform during the trials?
Just as well as we’d hoped. Lumino is highly reflective — our concerns were that they were actually going to be too reflective for the ROV!
Happily, it performed perfectly.
Is Lumino available to AQUASIGN customers now?
Yes – Lumino is ready to go in its standard rigid version. What we’re working on right now is adhesion to flexible solutions like cables.
So, in all, the trials were a success?
Yes, completely. We found out loads of stuff that’s going to help us further improve the way we design and build our fixings. Everything we do is with ease of use in mind, and there’s nothing like first-hand experience to show us what that looks like in practical terms.
It’s been so helpful for us to spend time with John MacLellan and the team at Fort William Underwater Trials. They were proactive and flexible from start to finish. They were quick on both scope and delivery, and they even came up to meet us and learn more about Aquasign and its fixings.
Then, when I was out on the vessel with them, they did everything they could to make sure the trials were a success. Can’t thank them enough.
So there you have it: AQUASIGN’s open-water trials have been a resounding success! We look forward to bringing you updates from other tests, as and when they happen, and to introducing you to the results of this exciting R&D work!
To find out more about any of the products or materials mentioned in this interview, contact Emma Learmonth at email@example.com.