Document Type


Date of Original Version



Ocean Engineering


Tethered deep-sea robots and instrument platforms, such as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and vertical-profiling or towed instrument arrays, commonly rely on fiber optics for real-time data transmission. Fiber optic tethers used for these applications are either heavily reinforced load-bearing cables used to support lifting and pulling, or bare optical fibers used in non-load bearing applications. Load-bearing tethers directly scale operations for deep-sea robots as the cable diameter, mass, and length typically require heavy winches and large surface support vessels to operate, and also guide the design of the deep-sea robot itself. In an effort to dramatically reduce the physical scale and operational overhead of tethered live-telemetry deep-sea robots and sensors, we have developed the Fiber Optic Reel System (FOReelS). FOReelS utilizes a customized electric fishing reel outfitted with a proprietary hollow-core braided fiber optic fishing line and mechanical termination assembly (FOFL), which offers an extremely small diameter (750 μm) load-bearing (90 lb/400 N breaking strength) tether to support live high-bandwidth data transmission as well as fiber optic sensing applications. The system incorporates a novel epoxy potted data payload system (DPS) that includes high-definition video, integrated lighting, rechargeable battery power, and gigabit ethernet fiber optic telemetry. In this paper we present the complete FOReelS design and field demonstrations to depths exceeding 780 m using small coastal support vessels of opportunity. FOReelS is likely the smallest form factor live-telemetry deep-sea exploration tool currently in existence, with a broad range of future applications envisioned for oceanographic sensing and communication.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.