Many of the engineering and fabrication sites visited are also involved in applied research in support of their products (see Table 7.2). In Europe as in the United States, an infrastructure of small entrepreneurial companies is engaged in the development of components for underwater vehicles. This is the result of our free enterprise society. In Russia and Ukraine this infrastructure is lacking, although the beginnings can be found in groups that have separated from the traditional institutions and now offer products and services that used to be totally controlled by the state. As these fledgling commercial companies mature and learn to market and price for the rest of the world, there probably will be a move by industry and academia toward the structure present in the West. The Academy of Science and its institutes will do science, and industry will deliver product. However, at present the institutes are still the primary force in Russia and Ukraine in deciding what direction the marine industry will take.


The sites visited were well equipped with state-of-the-art engineering tools. CAD systems and integrated analytical codes are used on workstations. Workstation software development environments such as VXworks are commonplace, and implement advanced algorithms and modern code for simulating systems and components. In short, the engineering and manufacturing work places and processes are much like in the United States.

In the United Kingdom, the Marine Technology Directorate (see Marine Technology Directorate site report in Appendix E) plays a unique role in funding and coordinating development of new technologies for underwater vehicles. A number of small companies and universities are supported in this manner to produce needed advances in acoustic and video sensors, automation and robotics, and other technologies. The end objective is to integrate and test these UV elements into operating systems. In France (see IFREMER site report in Appendix D), IFREMER plays a government role, funding and coordinating research and development at five different centers, and integrating the products into useful UVs.

Table 7.2
Summary of Engineering Sites Visited in Europe, Russia, and Ukraine

Russia and Ukraine

The WTEC team saw little of the engineering spaces in Russia and Ukraine. As a result, the team obtained little direct evidence of how the engineers work and what software and hardware design tools are available. However, much of the engineering is done manually. The computer support is exclusively on PCs; more than once, CAD and analytical software were mentioned as the most needed engineering tools (see Malachite Central Design Bureau site report in Appendix B). The engineering exhibited in the manned submersibles observed at Sevastopol (see Mariecoprom site report in Appendix B) also supports the conclusion that engineering in these two countries is basic but adequate. Optimization and aesthetics were obviously not important in the engineering approach. Structurally the submersibles were clearly over-designed rather than over-analyzed. Rather than minimizing weight through endless engineering, displacement is added and the size is accepted as a reasonable penalty. The most rudimentary manual controls are used instead of computer controlled systems. No navigation sensors were found, although obstacle avoidance sonars were used. Observation is by eyeball through view ports rather than by using external video systems. Even the latest of the submersibles, the Omar (1990) and Langust (1989), exhibited the same engineering and construction techniques. The philosophy seems to be to stay with what works and not to change unless necessary. This philosophy can also be detected from the lack of unmanned vehicles. Manned vehicles have accomplished what is required and the additional complexity of unmanned systems has been eschewed. The result is large and unsophisticated submersibles that are reliable and easy to maintain.

These submersibles are being offered for lease at low cost to users in the West, and may be an attractive alternative to vehicles presently used for science. A few problems, however, will have to be overcome. Certification of these submersibles for manned occupancy will not be easy. Previously produced vehicles are typically difficult to certify after the fact. Insurance and litigation concerns for uncertified vehicles will limit the value to Western industry and academia. Vehicles that are now in development, such as the Rift submersibles, are being coordinated with certification agencies such as Lloyds of London, DNV, or ABS. This level of certification will be acceptable to industry and academia but probably not to the U.S. Navy. One additional problem is the maturity of unmanned vehicles in the West. Years ago Western industry moved away from manned vehicles to ROVs, and the support infrastructure is well entrenched. It is unlikely that the oil industry, the biggest user of ROVs, will change to manned systems at this juncture.

Published: June 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian