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Merrimack Valley

September 16, 2013

Remote cameras aid Methuen police in underwater searches

METHUEN — When searching for evidence, recovering a body or simply checking on the grates at the city’s water treatment plant, police have a new remote control tool to help them.

The department’s Remote Operated Vehicle has lights and two cameras that easily capture images underwater and takes video.The refurbished ROV unit, purchased from VideoRay for $22,000, gives trained officers a clear view of the city’s underwater.

The unit does not replace or replicate the expertise of trained divers, however.

“But it enables us to search in areas without putting a diver in peril,” said Sgt. Michael Havey, who recently traveled with Officer Scott Lever to VideoRay headquarters in Pennsylvania for 3-days of specialized ROV training.

Lt. Michael Pappalardo is also trained to use the system.

The ROV is tethered to a 130-foot cord, runs in just a foot of water and can drop to 500 feet. The unit has two video cameras; one in front that shoots in color and a black and white back camera.

During training at Forest Lake in West Methuen this week, the ROV shot pictures of vegetation, many fish, debris and even a fishing lure submerged under water. The camera on the ROV records what it’s seeing and also posts the date, time, depth and compass setting on video. Top speed is roughly 4 knots. Above water, the handler controls the ROV with a joystick, knobs and switches.

“It allows us to search a larger area faster and locate the target,” Havey said.

The system was already used to locate stolen cars submerged in the Merrimack River.

The ROV can operate from land or from the department’s marine patrol boat. It’s probably best used at Forest Lake and in the city’s stretch of the Merrimack River. Depending on depth and conditions, the system may also work in sections of the Spicket River.

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