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sid recovery
 Despite the most thorough preparations, sometimes things do not go as planned. In this video you will see two recoveries of the SID-ISMS instrument, one that went perfectly and one that hit a bit of a snag. SSSG Allison Heater shows what happened.

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Greek Origin
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from the Greek word “okeanos,” meaning the great river or sea surrounding Earth

Welcome to Team JASON

December 4, 2011 (posted December 5, 2011)
by Cherie Winner

By now, if you’ve been following our Daily Updates, you already have a pretty good idea of what the remotely operated vehicle Jason is and what it can do. But what about the people who handle Jason? What is it like to sit in the pilot’s seat?

Inside the Jason control van, pilot Ben Tradd (see interview) described how three members of the team—the engineer, the pilot, and the navigator—control Jason, Jason’s companion vehicle Medea, and the ship we are on, the research vessel Atlantis. All three have to work together for the operation to run smoothly.

During a Jason dive, control of R/V Atlantis’s engines and helm is taken over by the navigator, who sits to the right of the pilot. The navigator keeps the ship in the right position to help Jason do its job. If Jason has to travel more than a few meters during its dive, the ship will probably have to move, too—but not too much and certainly not too fast.

Medea has two small (5 horsepower) thrusters, which isn’t much power considering that the cable that connects Medea to the ship may be 5 kilometers long and weigh more than two tons. Jason has six thrusters, but can’t get too far ahead of Medea because the two are linked by a fairly short tether.

To the left of the pilot sits the engineer. That person doesn’t have to have a degree in engineering; that’s just the name of the position on the Jason team. The engineer makes sure all of Jason’s hydraulic systems, mechanical systems, and electrical circuits are working properly, and controls the angle and zoom of the “brow cam” that is mounted high on the front of Jason. The view from the brow cam is one of the most important in helping the pilot visualize where Jason is in relation to the objects around it.

The engineer also controls Medea’s movement and the winch that determines how far below the surface Medea is. It’s very important to keep Medea above and within a safe distance of Jason. The tether between them on this cruise is 48 meters long, and the team wants the line to have some slack in it (the line has floats attached to it, so the slack part hangs in an “S” shape between the two vehicles) but not so much that it might get wound around Medea or Jason. With a 48-meter tether, keeping Medea about 35 meters above Jason is “just right.” Ben says that also allows Medea’s cameras to send back a great bird’s-eye view of Jason and its surroundings.

In the middle sits the pilot. He or she drives Jason, operates the two manipulator arms, takes in information from 18 data and video screens, and helps the scientists determine the best way to get the samples they need, whether the samples are pushcores, volcanic rocks, or prime video footage.

The two manipulator arms are good at different things. The one on the left is made of titanium and is very rugged and strong.

“If we want to break off a big chunk of rock, we use that arm,” says Ben. The one on the right is made of anodized aluminum and is great for very precise movements such as collecting pushcores. It has a very cool ability called force feedback, a set of pressure sensors in the mechanical hand and arm that sends signals back to the control arm the pilot is using. When the arm bumps into something or the hand picks something up, Ben says, it’s almost like he can feel it himself.

Ben says the hardest thing for new pilots to learn is how to combine all the images on the screens into a clear, three-dimensional image in their own heads of where Jason is and what it’s doing.

“When you can do that, you become a good pilot,” he says.


Read the new interview:

Ben Tradd Ben Tradd: Ben Tradd started working for WHOI part time while he was a student at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He joined WHOI full time three years ago, and five months ago Ben qualified to become a Jason pilot—at 25, the youngest person ever to do so. Read the interview »




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