In Greco-Roman mythology, Hercules is a god famous for his incredible strength, stamina, and far-reaching adventures. Since it was first launched in 2003, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules has similarly explored the farthest reaches of our planet’s unknown oceanic environments with endurance and tenacity befitting a hero. With Hercules, OET has surveyed ancient shipwrecks, discovered hydrothermal vents, and helped to identify marine species new to science.
ROV Hercules is at the center of the Nautilus exploration program, working in tandem with ROV Argus to explore the geology, biology, archaeology, and chemistry of the ocean. Hercules is outfitted with special features that allow it to perform intricate tasks, including two manipulator arms, a variety of sensors and samplers, a high-definition video camera, several LED lights, and high-resolution mapping tools. The submersible receives power from the surface through a fiber-optic cable, which also transmits data and video, to allow pilots located in the shipboard control van to “fly” the ROV in any direction through the use of its six thrusters.
A pair of manipulator arms allows the Hercules pilot to remotely collect biological and geological samples with precise dexterity. Hercules can deliver up to 113 kilograms (250 pounds) of samples or tools to and from the seafloor carried in specially designed collection boxes and acrylic jars. Other sensors located on Hercules measure pressure, depth, water temperature, oxygen concentration, and salinity to accommodate requests from scientists both onboard and onshore.
Hercules is equipped with multiple cameras, including the high-definition video camera that allows for real-time telepresence. Video from this main forward-facing camera is streamed up a fiber-optic cable through Argus and into the control van aboard Nautilus before being sent out to scientists, students, and the public watching across the world through our round-the-clock live streaming system.
The upper portion of Hercules is encased in a bright yellow flotation package constructed of “syntactic foam,” a composite material made of tiny, hollow glass balls mixed into epoxy resin. This makes Hercules slightly buoyant so that it will float when on the surface but can be driven up or down by thrusters. The Volkswagen beetle-sized ROV is built to withstand pressures at a depth of 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) with more than 6,000 pound-force per square inch (psi) for up to three days. Hercules weighs more than a car and measures 1.8 meters (6 feet) wide by 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) tall. It is 3.4 meters (11 feet) long. When not exploring the depths, Hercules is housed in a 24 square meter (258 square foot) ROV hangar aboard the Nautilus.
Learn More: The Tools of Exploration