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TAKE 5: The ON&T Interview with VideoRay

TAKE 5: The ON&T Interview with VideoRay

VideoRay has operated at the forefront of underwater robotics for almost 25 years now and in that time has established an industry-leading portfolio of ROV systems in use across the ocean industries for a wide range of missions including homeland security, search and rescue, infrastructure inspection, and more. We recently sat down with CEO Chris Gibson to get his exclusive take on VideoRay’s role in the evolution of inspection class ROVs.

1. To what do you attribute VideoRay’s unique success in the marine robotics space?

For the past 25 years, VideoRay’s success has been rooted in our commitment to listening and working with our customers to solve their challenges by applying and developing new VideoRay technology. Their satisfaction is everything to us. Our early ROVs were quite different from the solutions we offer today. VideoRay was one of the first in the market to deliver small, lightweight remotely operated vehicles primarily for underwater visual inspection tasks. We sold thousands of these vehicles around the globe, developing a strong reputation for exceptional service and reliability.

As our customers' applications became increasingly complex, we developed technology and established partnerships with best-in-class companies to meet their needs. These companies provided tooling and accessories, addressing our customers’ challenges and evolving requirements.

It was around this time that we were approached by the US Navy to fill a gap in their available technology. To address this, we created our Mission Specialist Defender underwater robot, which was ultimately selected as the vehicle of choice for the US Navy’s Maritime Expeditionary Standoff and Response (MESR) program. We have been awarded over $50 million in contracts to date for this program, with additional orders to follow. This shift in technology and focus has driven our sales and significant growth over the past several years, with more exciting opportunities on the horizon.


VideoRay’s inspection class ROV. (Credit: VideoRay)

2. What makes the Mission Specialist series so unique?

The unique strength of our Mission Specialist technology lies in empowering our customers in new ways. While we pride ourselves on delivering reliable, high-quality products, we understand the unpredictable nature of the marine environment. Unlike many companies, we don't view repairs and spares as a profit opportunity. Instead, we've revolutionized the repair process, enabling our customers to swiftly replace modules themselves, which delivers operational continuity and reduced downtime. This unique approach ensures that whether on an offshore oil rig, a renewable energy site, or a defense operation, our customers can swiftly address issues and keep their missions on track and on budget.

Our Mission Specialists have also been designed with an open architecture, which allows customers to integrate a wide array of accessories and technologies, vastly expanding the capabilities and applications. Customers can now utilize lower cost, low logistics inspection class ROVs to tackle missions that previously required expensive work class vehicle solutions.

Image3 USNavy VideoRay Defender hi res CORRECTED

The modular design of the Defender offers operators extended utility. (Credit: Rich Arrietta, NIWC Pacific)

3. What does the future hold for this category of ROV?

With the growing popularity of unmanned systems, the future of inspection class vehicles holds immense promise. While many sectors will benefit, the defense and security industries stand out as prime opportunities.

As technology evolves, we anticipate significant advancements, including umbilical-free ROV operation—already on trial and expected to revolutionize underwater missions. Enhanced data collection capabilities, facilitated by advanced sensors and tooling, will also allow our customers to gather information and fuse data together into 3D point cloud models which they can use for change detection.

This trend will also fuel the development of more intelligent, autonomous systems, streamlining operations and improving mission effectiveness. This progression aligns with our commitment to innovation, which is highlighted by our acquisition of Blue Ring Imaging last year. This technology offers customers a transformative shift, allowing users to experience missions in a virtual 3-dimensional space, fostering greater precision, collaboration, and immersion.

Our VideoRay Labs advancements will also enable unprecedented mission collabo- ration. Experts will be able to contribute remotely, optimizing decision-making and problem-solving in real time, regardless of their physical location. We envision a future where autonomous underwater robots not only excel in performance but also facilitate seamless global collaboration, redefining underwater exploration and operations.

4. What sort of custom options does VideoRay offer?

VideoRay is known for its custom design and configuration services. Our modular approach allows users to easily swap interchangeable modules and system accessories. This flexibility is fed by our close partnerships with many of the industry’s most innovative and reliable sen- sor and technology manufacturers, which greatly expands our capabilities.

From navigation to sonars, cameras, tooling, and other mission-specific payloads, our customizable approach means every vehicle can execute on its specific mis- sion requirements. We encourage manufacturers to reach out to us if they have new potential payload innovations that will enable new capabilities.

5. What does 2024 hold for the VideoRay team?

VideoRay is excited about our innovation and advancement in 2024. Our focus remains on enhancing the capabilities of our underwater robots.

One significant development on the horizon is the introduction of our Ultra 4K Smart Camera technology. This new technology represents a significant leap forward in underwater imaging, offering unparalleled clarity and precision for our customers. Embedded with a subsea processor, this cutting-edge camera system will deliver superior image quality and unlock many additional future features and functionalities. Looking further ahead, we're excited about the potential for stereo cameras and multi-camera systems, which will further improve our customers' perception capability, and their ability to navigate with 360-degree situational awareness to explore underwater environments with confidence.

In late Q1, VideoRay will also launch a new 12” diameter underwater robot we’ve named Ally. This new vector vehicle boasts a 4-knot speed, 21-pound lift load and shares the same modular design and common parts for field compatibility with our other Mission Specialist underwater robots and topsides. It’s exciting times at VideoRay, with a robust 5-year roadmap that promises significant new technology advancements to follow.

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This story was originally featured in ON&T Magazine's March 2024 issue. Click here to read more.


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