Career Spotlight: How To Become an ROV Pilot

ROV pilots in the control van
Susan Poulton

If given the choice to switch jobs on the E/V Nautilus, many of the Corps of Exploration members would like to try their hand at piloting an ROV. The questions we receive on Nautilus Live indicate many of you would be excited by this opportunity too! We checked in with three of our ROV pilots to find out how they earned their spot and what advice they would give to those who would like to follow in their footsteps.  

ROV pilots in control van
Susan Poulton
ROV pilot Mike Filimon pilots the ROV Hercules through a dive in the Gulf of Mexico.


Mike Filimon: "I went to the University of Rhode Island and majored in ocean engineering with a minor in underwater archaeology. Early in my college career, I was able to attend a field school in Bermuda where I helped to archive a shipwreck. Then, I did an internship with a dredging company. These two experiences, plus my background in SCUBA diving and sailing, helped me attain an internship with MATE working for Ocean Exploration Trust as an Argus pilot on board the Nautilus in the Mediterranean Sea. I did well and was asked back for two more years as an Argus pilot. I split the next season between piloting the Argus and the Hercules, and I have now been a Hercules pilot for two seasons. When I'm not on board the Nautilus, I work as a systems engineer in the underwater systems division of Lockheed Martin.

Mike's advice for future pilots: "You should get involved with MATE! Interships are a great way to develop skills and connections." 

ROV pilots
Susan Poulton
Matt Jewell pilots the ROV Hercules over a methane seep plume in the Gulf of Mexico.

Matt Jewell: "I was fascinated by submarines when I was growing up. I really wanted to be involved in designing them, but I didn't want to do the math. I compromised by pursuing industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design, but I ended up graduating with a degree in painting. After college, I tried to build a submarine in my garage and, when it didn't work, I realized I really needed to be trained in engineering. I received a second bachelor's degree in ocean engineering from the University of Rhode Island. One of my professors had built the Hercules ROV. OET had just acquired the E/V Nautilus, and he encouraged me to join the Corps of Exploration. I've been through four or five seasons now as a Hercules pilot, and I spend the rest of my time working on ROVs at the University of Connecticut."

Matt's advice for future pilots: "Find the people who are doing what you want to do and connect with them. Find a mentor. Don't be afraid to go after what you want." 

<em>Argus</em> pilot
Susan Poulton
Jonathon Zand pilots the ROV Argus in tandem with the ROV Hercules on a dive in the Gulf of Mexico.

Jonathan Zand: "I majored in mechanical engineering as an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia and then earned a master's degree in engineering with a focus in ROV navigation at the University of Victoria. I forged a partnership with Ocean Dynamics to get hands on experience both piloting and maintaining ROVs. I worked for four years as an systems integration engineer with Ocean Networks Canada where I developed science equipment that would be easy to deploy with ROVs. My supervisor at Ocean Dynamics helped me connect with the E/V Nautilus team, and I'm excited to be on board as an Argus pilot." 

Jon's advice for future pilots: "Make sure you have a strong stomach because you are going to spend a lot of time on the water. Trying to pilot an ROV on a small boat in rough seas when the images on the small screens are moving around at a different speed than the boat can be challenging to your equilibrium."