HyBIS - which stands for Hydraulic Benthic Interactive Sampler - is designed to be a versatile, easy-to-use vehicle for seafloor surveys, sampling, and underwater tasks down to depths of 6000 metres. The vehicle was conceived by expedition team member Bramley Murton and built by Hydro-Lek Ltd, a subsea engineering firm in Berkshire, UK.
HyBIS is remotely controlled from the ship through an umbilical cable. It is equipped with cameras to send back live pictures of the ocean floor, and tools for collecting geological and biological samples. The vehicle's thrusters allow it to move horizontally around the seabed, but unlike traditional remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs), the depth of the vehicle is controlled by the amount of umbilical cable paid out by the ship, rather than vertical thrusters.
HyBIS consists of two modules: a command module, and a separate sampling module. The command module carries the thrusters, hydraulic power packs, and command and telemetry systems. For our dives in the Cayman Trough, we have also equipped it with three video cameras - including one recording in high-definition - and more than 2000W of lights.
The sampling module can be set up with various tools for different seafloor tasks. On this expedition, it is carrying a 0.3 cubic metre clam-shell grab - a hydraulic scoop for collecting samples of rocks or seafloor sediments, and sessile marine life. The grab can open and close on command, while one camera watches the seafloor and another examines the sample bucket to check the grab has been successful.
The two HyBIS modules can be separated on command, allowing the tool module to be jettisoned, or for payloads to be deployed. HyBIS can also carry a CTD probe to measure the temperature and salinity of the water, and a stand-alone pump system to filter seawater for geochemical and microbiological studies.
Page 1: HyBIS concept and design
Page 2: HyBIS track record
Want to dive deeper?
Download the technical specifications for HyBIS
Read about the HyBIS test dives exploring the Casablanca Seamount