The Underwater Research Center of the Russian Geographical Society is developing a domestic manned underwater vehicle. The Dutch apparatus C-Explorer is used as a sample. The Center’s specialists used it to conduct tests in the Blue Lake in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic. The researchers collected data to improve the created apparatus, and also shot a video of the dive in 360 ° format.
Manned underwater vehicles are a modern tool for the study of underwater spaces. They are able to carry out not only inspection work, but can also be equipped with various additional equipment, from a manipulator for collecting soil and underwater flora to tools for cutting and welding metal. Two to three people can be accommodated in a modern MUV. This means that specialists from related fields — historians, archaeologists — who do not have special underwater training, can be delivered to a work location. In addition, MUVs do not have a rigid attachment to a carrier ship or to a coastal base, which allows them to effectively conduct research and prospecting.
Since 2019, Russian scientists have been developing a high-tech MUV that will combine the best characteristics of world analogues. In particular, it will be able to work at depths of more than two kilometers; freely maneuver on all planes and rotate around the vertical axis; work from a wide range of carriers, including from a low-equipped coastal base; move at a speed of less than three knots underwater. It could also be used in any areas of the World Ocean, in both fresh and salt water. The device is commissioned by and for the needs of the oil and gas industry, but it is suitable for a full study of the natural and man-made heritage of our planet, and for assisting in the work of the Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters.
The Underwater Research Center of the RGS is involved in the development of the new MUV as an expert, as it has unique experience in using such mini-submarines of foreign manufacture in its expeditions. For example, the manned underwater vehicles used by the Underwater Research Center of the RGS played a significant role in studying the deepest karst lake in Russia, Tserik-Kel. A system of underwater caves and crevices was discovered, going below the level of the bottom of the lake itself, which is 265 meters below the surface level.
“The expedition to the Blue Lake in 2020 was not intended to study the lake itself - we already did this in 2016 - but to conduct scientific and technical work related to the development of a domestic manned underwater vehicle. The so-called full-scale modeling rests on our shoulders, meaning testing the technical and constructive solutions in real conditions,” said Sergey Fokin, Executive Director of the Underwater Research Center of the RGS. “The Blue Lake is an ideal training ground, with a depth of over 200 meters, with good transparency, and no current. We were working every day for three weeks."
“The RGS Underwater Research Center has a manned underwater vehicle C-Explorer. It is suitable for modeling, in particular, because attachments can be installed on it. They are very stripped-down compared to what will be installed on the new device, but it is the only way to get some data, take into account the shortcomings and subsequently correct them on the new device. The design and creation process is very lively, we are constantly rejecting some decisions and getting new ideas instead," said the head of the Design Engineering Department of the RGS Underwater Research Center, Stepan Kichko.
During the test work in the Blue Lake, the specialists of the Underwater Research Center of the RGS filmed a video of the dive with the presence effect. In order to completely immerse yourself in the underwater work and view all the details from different angles, when watching a video, turn the mouse while holding the left button (this changes the view angle), and scroll the wheel to zoom in on the image.