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Going Deep with Jason 2

» Jason 2 can work at 6,500 meters depth (21,320 feet), allowing access to 98 percent of the world's oceans. The first Jason vehicle could work as deep as 6,000 meters.

» Jason 2 has two dexterous and complimentary manipulator arms (compared with one on the original vehicle), which together can lift 150 pounds. “The two robotic arms are so adept,” says Paul Johnson. “I think they could tie a shoelace.”

» The control system, designed by Louis Whitcomb and Dana Yoerger, assists the pilots to control the vehicle’s position with great precision, like an airplane flying on auto-pilot. “The pilots are no longer stick-and-rudder guys,” says Bowen. “They are now masters of the control systems, reacting to the data coming in.”

» Jason 2 navigates with a state-of-the-art, north-seeking gyroscopic compass, which finds true north sensing gravity and the rotation of the earth. Pilots can figure the position of the vehicle globally, not just relative to buoys that might drift. “When performing a bathymetric survey, the accuracy of the resulting map is determined by the precision of the vehicle’s navigation,” Whitcomb notes. “The new system is an order of magnitude more precise than our previous Jason system.”

» So what is it like to fly ROV Jason 2? “It’s a bit like playing a video game,” says Will Sellers. “But it also can be intimidating because you have information coming at you from a dozen screens. You need a situational awareness and the ability to steer by visual clues. If there is a black smoker belching superheated water behind you, you’d better know it’s there.”

Originally published: July 1, 2003