Necessity is the mother of invention, so they say. That was certainly the case when it came to the R&D of our new Viewport3 designed ‘drop’ camera. We discovered there was a lack of such cameras in the market which are capable of collecting the high-grade digital images which are our hallmark.

From our point of view the accuracy of these images assists in the creation of virtual 3D assets, which give our clients access to the benefits of modern 3D reverse engineering. Crucially, however, it is equally deployable out with 3D scanning tasks as a regular inspection camera to be used by diver, ROV or in a deployable ‘drop’ configuration.

What is its USP?

What sets this camera apart is that it squares the circle of combining high-quality images with ease of deployment. It is also light enough to be mated to small ROVs which tend to use basic IP cameras for flight navigation. What’s more, the independent tether provides the flexibility to power the camera’s lighting system, as opposed to limiting it to the power available through the ROV’s electrical channel.

Have you used it on any 3D scanning projects?

In Q3 of 2022, we were contracted by the National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland (NMIS), run by Strathclyde University to carry out underwater 3D scanning on a fish farm in Shetland, as part of a wider project to improve health and safety for divers inspecting these assets.

Viewport3 co-founder and Technical Director, Chris Harvey, said: “The Shetland project arose immediately following the completion of our deployable prototype. This allowed us to greatly improve the quality of images captured at the underwater site.”

How did the camera perform?

The camera was mated to a ‘Falcon’ ROV, with little to no work needed to ‘trim’ the ROV flight characteristics, expediting the project schedule. The ROV was then flown to and around the applicable sites identified by the client.
The topside control equipment provides a live view from the camera’s viewfinder allowing the capture personnel to shoot with confidence as well as ‘pull’ the data up the tether without having to retrieve the ROV.
We were very pleased that the camera worked perfectly, and had collected high-grade digital images which were then used to create virtual 3D versions of the identified hardware.

3D data – from images collected from drop camera

What progress has been made since then?

Since the Shetland project we have temporarily reconfigured the camera to facilitate 3D scanning of a Temporary Abandonment cap down a well. Chris explains why the ‘drop’ camera was ideal for this particular job: “The camera benefits from a very short focal distance, something which is crucially important when working in such small spaces, with only 2-3 inches available to achieve focus and enable high-grade image collection. As such, we expect it to be in demand for other such spatially restricted projects in the future, particularly as the well decommissioning efforts in the North Sea ramp up.”

What else does the future hold for your ‘drop’ camera?

Co-founder and Director, Richard Drennan, said: “While lightweight and micro ROVs have benefits that the energy industry is keen to exploit, they lack power and communication ‘channels’ that allow connection and control of external devices.

“In shallow water circumstances, a drop camera solves this issue by vastly improving the image collection capabilities without any external device channels. It is also very close to neutrally buoyant, something we identified as important in the micro-ROV sector.

“Our customers in the diving industry have also expressed interest in using the camera, both for 3D scanning and more typical inspection projects. In relation to these, the cameras is small enough to be considered for internal J-tube / caisson type inspections.”