The Victor 6000 robot joining the search is operated by a 25-strong crew. „We can work non-stop for up to 72 hours, we don’t need to stop at night,” an official says.
By Tom Acres, technology reporter
Thursday 22 June 2023 13:55, UK
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All vessels involved in the search for the missing Titan submersible are now in place – including one carrying a robot that can dive to 6,000m (19,600ft).
Marine traffic in the area of the Titanic shipwreck in the North Atlantic shows the boats getting into position, as the race against the clock nears its end.
The submersible, which went missing on Sunday, is set to run out of oxygen today at just gone midday UK time.
Titanic sub search – follow live updates
Among the vessels heading to the search area on Thursday morning was the French research boat Atalante, which carried a deep-sea robot called Victor 6000.
It has remotely controlled arms that can cut cables and perform other manoeuvres to release a stuck vessel – and its 6,000m diving capability means it can go even deeper than the Titanic itself.
The famous shipwreck, which the Titan was heading towards, lies at a depth of about 3,810 metres (12,500ft).
Victor 6000 is run by a 25-strong crew and „can work non-stop for up to 72 hours”, said Olivier Lefort of Ifremer, a state-run French research institute that operates the robot.
„Victor is able to do visual exploration with all the video equipment it has”, said Mr Lefort, who was part of the team that found the wreck of the Titanic in 1985.
„It is also equipped with manipulating arms which could be used to extricate the sub, such as by sectioning cables or things that would be blocking it at the bottom.”
How ‘ROVs’ joined the search
Victor is not the only remote operated vehicle (ROV) that’s been called upon since Titan disappeared on Sunday.
Others were brought to the scene earlier in the week by some of the first vessels to respond.
As the name suggests, they are then operated remotely from a surface vessel. Most feature cameras and lights for sending real-time images back to the boat.
Canadian vessel Horizon Arctic deployed an ROV that has reached the sea floor to look for the submersible, to be followed by Victor 6000.
Their searches are focused on the area of sounds picked up by sonobuoys.
These devices are designed to locate objects underwater using sonar and were deployed by a Canadian P-3 plane.
Once deployed, an inflatable with a radio transmitter sits on the surface, while the equipment for detecting noise is strung along a wire and descends below the surface.
While officials said an investigation of the banging sounds they had picked up had come back negative, experts say sonobuoys could still prove crucial in narrowing the search.
Sonobuoys and their role in Titan search explained
Underwater noises in hunt for Titan – what do they mean for search?
The role of ‘Fadoss’
While ROVs could not lift Titan to the surface on their own, they could help to hook it to a ship on the surface.
To lift the sub, search teams could use the Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System (Fadoss), which arrived aboard Horizon Arctic along with several other vessels on Thursday.
It’s a winch and cable long enough to pull something like a submersible to the surface, and has a deep sea lifting capacity of up to 27,200kg.