Unguided deep-sea research is essential for national and global security

This Sunday on NPR I heard the following paraphrased comment: “The ROV pilots have never had to deal with anything like this before, no one has trained for the kinds of maneuvers needed to close to well.” I’ve known many ROV pilots. They are all incredibly skilled, know how to handle their robots, and generally have many years of experience working in industrial settings.

But commercial ROV work tends to be monotonous. Many pilots I know spend the vast majority of their time inspecting pipelines and oil rigs, flying over long tracks of seafloor with little to no variation, looking for any signs of damage. When their skills are put to the test, it’s often the same repetitive motion, over and over. Even training simulations to prepare them for catastrophes cannot predict the infinite variations that could occur as an oil-rig collapses. It’s impossible to train for everything.

Until you throw a biologist into the mix.

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