This Football-Sized Robot Sub Handles Law Enforcement's Underwater Beat

From inspecting cargo ships in NYC Harbor to searching for missing persons in South Texas, law enforcement is increasingly supplementing its human divers with these football-sized remote submersibles.

The VideoRay Pro 3 GTO is a tethered, remotely-controlled micro-submersible. The eight-pound machine can dive as far as 500 feet and move at up to 4.1 knots, thanks to its dual 100 mm horizontal thrusters. It's sensor suite includes, among others, sonar imaging, GPS, water quality sensors, and metal thickness gauges. The Pro 3 GTO, which the NYPD employs also includes a grappling arm, wide-angle front-facing color camera illuminated with Dual 20W Halogen lamps, and an LED-lit HG black-and-white camera on the rear. The submersible is controlled remotely from a suitcase-sized control board.

The device is finding extensive use among in government agencies, like the US Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA, the ICE, and the US Coast Guard. Nearly 2,000 of the $31,000 machines are in use across the country—especially where conditions are too dangerous to prohibit human divers. Many law enforcement agencies are also using the ROVs in search and recovery operations and to sweep ships for contraband. According to a post on police news site Officer.com,

[The] submersible device was utilized in Price County, Wisconsin; where it provided video forensic evidence and led divers to a drowned victim. The next year the ROV located and recovered the body of a 66-year-old man from 28 feet of water in the north arm of Burntside Lake, north of Ely, Minnesota. This marked the first time the unit was employed to bring a body to the surface. Then in 2007, Security Administrators Ltd. used the submersible to locate a total of 18 drug canisters which held 2,000 pounds of marijuana.

The VideoRay is also becoming popular in the scientific community where it has been employed to check on vessels scuttled by Lord Cornwallis during the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the last major battle of the American Revolution. It has also monitored the status of Uranium-enrichment ponds at Superfund sites. Researchers have also used it to explore the Antarctic ocean, search the Yucatan River for Mayan treasure, explore the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, and even look around for the Loch Ness Monster. [VideoRay - Officer - Wikipedia]

The VideoRay in use by the NYPD


The VideoRay cruising around under Key Largo


The VideoRay chasing scallops for a half hour