Robot ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) Comanche is no ordinary robot, this ‘little’ guy has pulled out 500 tons of oil from a ship that has been under the sea for 15 years and is now searching and rescuing bodies from the shipwreck.
The ROV Comanche is an underwater robot with which the Spanish Maritime Rescue has been working with since 2004. The robot is built to resist the gruelling conditions of underwater rescues that require great complexity. Its specifications show that it can descend to a depth of 1,000 metres, it has a search sonar with a maximum range of 300 metres, a sonar-altimeter with a range of 50 metres, a depth gauge and a flash beacon for locating it on the surface.
The robot, which weighs 3 tons, has recently been moved from the Fene base in Galicia, where it is usually permanently located, to embark on a new mission where it was accompanied by four divers. They were all located in a cage that connected to the ship with a 300-metre umbilical cable.
The robot has three high-definition cameras which allowed the operators to check which oil blankets could be rescued and which could not. It also has several manipulator arms to help in the location and extraction tasks. This mission was a tedious one and the Maritime Safety and Rescue Society of Spain were heavily involved in making it all run smoothly.
Rescues, storms, Gloria, shipwrecks…
Although you may never have heard of the ROV Comanche, it has been present in a large part of the maritime rescue operations that have been taking place in Spain over the past 16 years.
The ROV was involved in the rescue of two fishing boats lost in Galicia in 2004, in the accident and shipwreck of the Nuevo Pepita Aurora in 2007 or in the search for two fishermen from El Fairell in 2017, among many other cases.
This underwater robot has once again come to the forefront in recent weeks, especially following the Gloria storm that has hit the entire peninsula.
After the storm caused the shipwreck of the Cadiz fishing boat Rúa Mar, the ROV was in charge of finding the body of one of its crew members, as well as searching for the damaged boat and discarding the wrong locations.
Even though "the work of the robot does not necessarily consist of rescuing bodies, that is a task for the Guardia Civil. But, with this technology, what you can do is find and locate the bodies, the ships or whatever you are looking for. It's a task that divers cannot do alone, and with this robot, we can do those jobs by controlling everything from the surface," he says.
In any case, ROV Comanche's work will continue to be eminently silent, with virtually no one knowing about it. But it's quite likely that the next time we see a major sea rescue on the news, this robot will be taking on a large part of the responsibility.