Jesse Lang and George Diaz start their own ROV training program as part of their business
Jesse Lang and George Diaz, experienced military technicians and trainers, began offering remotely operated vehicle (ROV) training at a commercial diving school in South Carolina in 2016. But when the school (the International Diving Institute) closed last year, the partners decided to start their own ROV training program as part of their business, Palmetto Subsea Inspections (PSI). The company is now located on a pier along the Cooper River in Charleston, South Carolina, which was the original site of the International Diving Institute.
Although the curriculum is similar to what they previously taught, Lang and Diaz made some improvements in their own program. One of their first tasks was to contact ADCI and go through the review process required to get their training accredited. So now, instead of just getting a school certificate, PSI’s students will receive ADCI certification as an ROV technician/pilot.
PSI has another distinction – it is the only ROV training course in the U.S. that is open to the general public without requiring enrollment in a college program or other diver training course.
Filling a Market Need
Lang and Diaz said the demand for trained ROV pilots is growing, so they split their time between training and doing ROV contract work for various dive companies. However, as their program graduates more ROV technician/pilots, Lang and Diaz want to focus more on adding different training programs. For example, they currently working on adding a separate fiber optics splicing specialist course.
“We do not want to compete with other companies; we want to increase the skills of their employees,” said Lang.
The students who earn their ADCI certification through PSI will be able to use their ROV skills in a variety of industries outside of commercial diving, including but not limited to oceanographic research, marine archaeology, inspections of public infrastructures, and even the television and movie industry.
ROVs range in size from small systems about the size of a basketball to large systems bigger than sport utility vehicles. The capabilities of these systems range from basic observation to interacting with other underwater systems. It does not matter if an ROV is an observation or work class system because they all rely on the same electronic principles.
“Our course prepares candidates who are interested in that kind of career with the entry-level type training that they would need in the field,” he continued.
Employers generally require ROV personnel to have a prior experience with electronics, hydraulics or maintenance. Outside of college or military service, these skills can be hard to obtain. PSI’s course is designed to provide that kind of foundation to its students. “Being commercial divers and former military instructors and technicians, we are familiar with the industry so we can provide that technical information to our students through our training course curriculum,” said Diaz.
PSI’s classes are small – just four to six people – so that all participants get a lot of individualized attention. The course provides trainees 160 hours of training, including 40 hours using the ROVs. This gives students the opportunity to serve as the pilot, tender, supervisor and in other roles so they gain a better understanding of what it takes to safely get an ROV into the water.
The class runs for four weeks and begins with the basics of electronics and hydraulics theory. Students learn through hands-on tasks, reading schematics, using multimeters to trace out circuits and doing soldering to repair cables.
Trainees also receive extensive safety training. “We cover common industrial safety and familiarize them with safety for the types of facilities that they may encounter offshore and inland – vessels or structures like offshore oil rigs, or inland hydroelectric facilities and nuclear facilities,” Diaz continued.
For the actual ROV training, students work primarily with the observation class of the remote vehicles, which are small, mobile and range in size from 20 to 200 pounds. Trainees start off by piloting the ROV in a quarry where the water is clear and there’s no current, using the onboard camera and compass to navigate. They then advance to using various sonars to guide ROVS through the Cooper River, which has a strong current and very low visibility due to sediment.
“By the time the students have completed the training, they have done ROV mobilizations, set up and run a typical operation, and made a report on their findings for that operation,” said Diaz. Trainees must pass weekly exams and a final exam to earn their ADCI certification.
PSI’s students come from a variety of backgrounds and from many different locations. Some have no technical experience, while others have worked in the military or industry. About half of the people who have taken PSI’s classes have already been trained as divers and want the ROV training to improve their resume.
At present, PSI is offering classes on a quarterly basis. Once students complete their training, PSI assists them with resume writing, job searches, and applying for jobs.
Course graduates will find that the ADCI pilot technician certification offered by PSI will be a positive addition to their resume in their job hunt. “Having an actual certificate backed by ADCI says a lot when you go out to prospective employers,” said Diaz.