JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Meet...Leighton, ROV engineer

What he does on board:

Pilots the ROV:  Piloting the ROV is about controlling it in three dimensions, up-down, forwards-backwards and sideways.  When you are trying to control a 3.5 tonne machine that can be up to 6km away from you need to monitor what is going on using the 10 screens around you VERY closely.  Damaging the ROV kilometres under the water is not an option.  Leighton controls the ROV from onboard the ship.  To do this he has to be very focused and aware of what is going on around the ROV, if he gets it wrong and drives into a cliff, or gets tangled up in some of the rubbish that is lying on the bottom of the ocean – there are loads of old fishing nets lying around on the bottom of the ocean, this could damage the ROV and make it impossible to return to the surface.

Another important job of the ROV Operators is to monitor the systems.  The operator has to check to see if all parts of the ROV are functional and working correctly.  The ROV operators can check the dials that are built into the ROV to ensure that all is going well.  If they detect that something is not operating as it should then it is the teams responsibility to return the ROV to the surface, before it becomes a real issue. Above all else they do not want to lose the ROV.

Another job of the ROV team is navigation when they are piloting the ROV they have to be very careful not to move under the ship such that the cable is rubbing on the ship (it could act a bit like the wire used to cut cheese) and damage the ship!, and they need to ensure that the cable is well away from any rudders or propellers under the ship.  The navigator of the ROV has to communicate to the bridge where best to position the ship so that the cable does not become an issue.


How do you become an ROV Engineer?

Leighton has:  11 GCSE’s including Japanese and triple science
3 A Levels, Japanese, English and a Degree in Computing

As part of his degree Leighton spent a placement year at NOCS, which he thoroughly enjoyed. When he left university Leighton became a Software Engineer but had enjoyed his time at NOCS so much that he successfully applied for a job with them later. 


Skills needed to do the job:

Teamwork is very important, the shift hours are long -12hours, midnight to mid day and for much of that time Leighton is working in the ROV control room with four other ROV operators and some scientists. 

Situational awareness and spatial awareness are critical to a successful dive as the operators must be aware of what is going on around them in all three dimensions and able to act on what they see.

Effective communication is vital, both to other team members and the bridge to ensure that difficult situations are resolved quickly and to avoid difficult situations arising.

Sense of humour, lets face it any time you work with people this is really important.


What other interests does Leighton have?

Leighton enjoys playing rugby and he is a keen photographer, he takes a photographic record of his work and the work of the research ship and would love to be able to put his photos into an official book, to bring to life what marine research is all about.  He is also good at fixing PC’s that have died - a useful skill on board a ship!

Any questions? Ask us using the question and answer page

Home -



Latest news

For teachers
Contact us

© NOCS 2007