Robot Used In West Michigan Water Searches

Posted at 7:25 PM, May 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-22 20:23:40-04

WEST MICHIGAN, (May 22, 2014)– It’s a member of the Ottawa County Marine Patrol:  a robot, also known as a remote operated device, that assists the team in water searches.

On Wednesday, six agencies were called to search Lake Michigan after Jose Moreno, 17, jumped off the Holland Pier. His friend said he came above the water but then disappeared.

After more than two hours of searching, the device spotted Moreno. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but didn’t survive.

Sgt. Cal Keuning with the Ottawa County Marine Patrol was there. He’s worked with the patrol for nearly a decade and said they got the ROD just two years ago.

“It makes our job much safer ’cause we can rule out things,” Keuning said.  “Instead of sending divers in and out all the time we can go up to the target, see what the target is, and go from there.”

Armed with cameras and sonar equipment, the device is attached to a tether and then tossed in the water.  A crew member then directs it where to go with a remote control. They can view everything on a monitor.

“I can go right up to the target,” Keuning said. “I can take video, still picture, look around the target and go from there.”

Whether it’s skimming the surface, or scaling the bottom of the water, the robot shows crews everything they need to know.

“Shows my depth. If we’re in the water it shows my temperature right there as well,” Keuning said, while pointing to the monitor. “Then, of course, my compass heading.”

The device can even travel as far as 1,000 feet below. It doesn’t, however, replace traditional dive team crews. Keuning said often times the device will be in the water at the same time as divers. Saying, that while the divers are in one area, the device can be in another, expanding the search.

“We can see the divers on this, too” Keuning said. “We can make sure drivers are ok, and what not, we can talk to them, so it’s a very safe device.”