Oil drillers noticed quickly that wells near the shore often produced the most oil. It was obvious that there was a profitable future in finding ways to extract oil from beneath the sea floor. As early as the 1880s, drillers erected rigs on wharfs. But it wasn’t until 1947 that an oil company built the first true oil well away from land.
Since then, and after a long political dispute in the United States about who has the rights to lease offshore areas for drilling purposes, the offshore oil drilling industry took off. One of the technologies that spurred the development of offshore drilling was remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, which the military was already using to retrieve lost equipment underwater. Because diving in deep water is dangerous, the oil industry adapted ROVS for drilling in the 1970s.
Controlled from the rig above the water’s surface, an ROV is a robotic device that allows operators to see underwater. Some types allow the operator to make an ROV’s robotic arms perform different functions, such as subsea tie-ins and deepwater installations, as deep as 10,000 feet (3,048 meters).