POTTSTOWN, Pa. - Underwater exploration can be tricky.
But the folks at VideoRay are leading the way by letting robots do the heavy lifting.
It's a tool that's "Made Right Here" in Pottstown.
When it comes to dress code VideoRay isn't a suit and tie kind of place but it is a wetsuit kind of place.
Which makes sense because this is a company that dabbles in the "deep."
We make a very small submersible underwater remotely operated vehicle. We call it an ROV.
If you don't speak "robot" the gist is VideoRay lends a hand or make that a claw when the job's too dangerous or difficult for divers.
"We're looking for drowning victims or anything that's not supposed to be there on the bottom of a port," said VideoRay marketing manager Brian Luzzi.
Company founder Scott Bentley, a software engineer, came up with the idea for VideoRay in 1999 while visiting Russia's Shirshov Institute of Oceanology.
"At that time it made the large submersibles, the MEREs that have been down to the Titanic. [He] thought to himself, 'why can't we bring that to the masses?'," said Luzzi.
Soon he was doing just that by way of a garage in Exton.
Eventually operations shifted to an old Mennonite barn in Phoenexville.
Then when VideoRay outgrew that space another move was made to Main Street in Pottstown.
"We went from about 6,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet here," said Luzzi.
Another advantage of the Pottstown location is a test tank for all those toys.
It takes just a few days to assemble one of them.
"We have LED lights up front, the motor is in the middle and then the thruster guards and the propellers are in the back there," said Luzzi.
This is the device that controls the robot once it's in the water. It's a little bit like playing a hi-tech video game.
A camera that pans and zooms captures all the action beneath the surface for paying customers here and around the globe.
"Pennsylvania State Police is one of our best customers. They own about 4, 5 systems," said Luzzi.
The ROV's have also tangled with Great Whites.
"We've recently done shark men and shark wranglers that's on the History Channel," said Luzzi.
And they've sniffed out "fishy deliveries" for port security crews.
"We've found drugs and the like under there," Luzzi said.
The ROV's weigh just 10 to 13 pounds. They can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $150,000.
But the people who depend on them to perform in precarious situations would probably say it's money well spent.
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