Control solution for Deepsea Challenger

10 April 2012

Opto 22 has provided the primary control system for a record-setting dive to the Mariana Trench, by filmmaker and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, James Cameron, as part of the Deepsea Challenge expedition.

On March 26, 2012 Cameron made a successful solo descent of almost 11 km to the ‘Challenger Deep,’ the deepest point in the World's oceans. The Deepsea Challenge expedition is a joint scientific expedition partnership by Cameron, National Geographic, and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research and exploration at the great depths of the deepest point on Earth.

Cameron reached the sea floor in the Deepsea Challenger, a deep-sea submersible built by Australia-based Acheron Project. A computer-based control system from Opto 22 sits at the heart of the submersible, controlling and monitoring more than 180 onboard systems such as sensors, batteries, thrusters, life support, and lighting.

The differences from the previous dive to the Challenger Deep are notable. In 1960, Swiss explorer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh descended in the bathyscaph Trieste, which took almost five hours to reach the sea floor, over three hours to return, and stayed on the bottom for just 20 minutes. Sediment stirred up by the bathyscaph obscured the view through its small porthole and photographs of the sea floor outside weren't possible.

The submersible was able to descend to the sea floor in two hours and was able to spend hours exploring, and then return to the surface in just over one hour. It is equipped with multiple cameras, including 3D video cameras, a tower of LED lights, and robotic claws and other apparatus to collect samples of rocks and sea creatures.

Cameron's record-setting dive was backed by a team of engineers, scientists, educators, and journalists, including an on-site technical liaison from Opto 22, application engineer, Benjamin Orchard, who worked with the submersible builder to integrate the Opto 22 control system. In addition, a team of programmers and electrical engineers at Opto 22 headquarters in the US, helped with custom programming, system design, and troubleshooting. David Wotherspoon, project manager with Acheron Project was pleased with the results. He said: "Opto 22 provided an advanced submersible, Deepsea Challenger, with a reliable control system that performed above my expectations."

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