New technology development

Within BIODEEP the MODUS/SCIPACK System was developed in order to collect water and brine samples with an accurate depth and position control in the DHABs environment. The system is composed of the following main components:




d) MODUS handling equipment

e) MODUS surface equipment


The whole system is deployed according to selected standard procedures (see below).

Moreover, in order to collect uncompressed water and brine samples, a special high-pressure sampler, developed in Marseille, is used in BIODEEP (Bianchi et al., 1999), carried by an ad-hoc modified Rosette or by MODUS.




MODUS (MObile Docker for Underwater Sciences) is a special deep-sea ROV (remotely-operated vehicle), developed and qualified in the framework of MAST-3 projects GEOSTAR (1995-1998) and GEOSTAR 2 (1999-2001), capable to operate heavy payloads at depths down to 4000 m.
Originally conceived to deploy and recover GEOSTAR deep-sea benthic observatory, MODUS has been adapted to carry out the tasks foreseen for BIODEEP project, namely:
- accurate and controlled deployment of SCIPACK into the brines and at the normal sea-water/brine interface;
- survey of the basin beaches.

MODUS is deployed through an electro-mechanical cable carried by a special large winch.

MODUS standard configuration includes: 
- 3 TV cameras: 2x b/w, 1x col (6000 m w.d.) (DeepSea Power & Light MULTI-SEACAM 1050/2050); 3 lights (DeepSea Power & Light DL 1040, 24V / 250 W) 
- Sonar (Tritech, dual frequency: 325 and 675 kHz, 360, range up to 300m)
- Altimeter (Tritech, 9600 Baud, 200 kHz, 20 conical beam, range 100m)
- Analog and electronic compass for heading, pitch and roll
- Two pairs of horizontally mounted Thrusters: Tecnadyne 2010, 700N thrust each
- Telemetry unit (MacArtney modified NEXUS)

Some adaptations were made from the original configuration used for Geostar project. These include:
- addition of a skid (SCISKID) for the management of the umbilical cable to SCIPACK, as well as for the mounting of the instruments required by the BIODEEP missions;
- addition of an electronic box (S-BOX) managing MODUS navigation sensors (pressure, altimeter, compass, tilt) as well as the power and communication to SCIPACK. S-BOX is connected to MODUS telemetry through the already available serial lines (two used, one for SCISKID and one for SCIPACK).






Modus and Scipack
(Urania 2001)



Deployment of
(Urania 2001)




Big winch for



3D cad drawing
of MODUS and


 Mod_scip.jpg (153363 byte)


Modus.jpg (89998 byte)


winch.jpg (107774 byte)


MODUS_cad.jpg (48093 byte)



SCISKID is a frame added to MODUS to provide the necessary modular mounting capabilities for the BIODEEP specific electronic boxes, sensors and steel cable holdings. It is made of seawater resistant aluminium tubes with quadratic diameter (80mm). 
The mechanical connection between this frame and the existing interface to MODUS is supplied by four welded steel L-profiles. SCISKID is equipped with a cable stopper and a sheave, leading the mechanical cable undisturbed to the SCIPACK, described later. 

A small electro-winch mounted to the frame of the MODUS umbilical-winch provides the necessary pull to the stainless steel cable, connecting SCISKID with SCIPACK during deployment and recovery.

A special data acquisition and control unit has been developed for SCISKID, aimed at managing MODUS navigation sensors, as well as power/communication to SCIPACK.





cable stopper


Detail of the
cable termination
and stopper






cable_stopper.jpg (79162 byte)

stopper2.jpg (54974 byte)

winch.jpg (107774 byte)


SCIPACK is the instrumented module specifically developed to enter into the brines and take measurement and samples in an accurate and controlled way. SCIPACK configuration includes:

1) Mechanical frame. It is made in hard anodised aluminium. It is provided with attachment points for the standard payload foreseen for BIODEEP (CTD, Rosette, altimeter, light and camera, B-Box) as well as for additional scientific packages (like the HP5L).
SCIPACK is connected to SCISKID by means of a mechanical cable (stainless steel, Φ 8 mm, fixed in the SCISKID cable stopper)  and a separate electrical umbilical cable (4 twisted pairs). 

2) Data acquisition and control electronics. It is composed of the following main units:
- CPU board model TEC-CPU2 (Tecnomare design) based on ONSET TT8 + PERSISTOR CF8 (with the aim to switch on/off the scientific payload and status sensors, to regulate the light intensity, to acquire data supplied by SCIPACK scientific payload and status sensors; to manage the communication with SCICONTROL) ;
- SIGNAL CONDITIONING board (Tecnomare design) to condition the signals from status sensors (internal diagnostic);
- SWITCH board (Tecnomare design) to switch ON/OFF the scientific payload and status sensors;
- DIMMER board to control the light intensity;
- POWER UNIT board

SCIPACK data acquisition and control electronics is housed (together with internal status sensors) inside B-BOX (a titanium vessel manufactured by KUM, internal diameter 150 mm, length 650 mm, 6000 mwd rated).

3) SCIPACK scientific payload. It is composed of:
- CTD IDRONAUT Ocean Seven 316, equipped with the following sensors:
- Pressure (calibrated in the range 0-4000 dbar)
- Temperature IPTS-68 (calibrated in the range 0-25 C)
- Conductivity (high conductivity cell calibrated in the range 0-500 mS/cm).
- General Oceanics model 1015 Rosette, equipped with 12 bottles x 2.5 litre each and controlled by an Idronaut CTD.
- TV Camera (DeepSea Power & Light) MULTI-SEACAM 2050 (color, 6000 m w.d.)
- Light (DeepSea Power & Light) DL 1040 (120V / 250 W)

4) SCIPACK Status sensors. They are used for navigation purpose and to monitor the internal status of B-BOX. They consist of:
- Navigation sensors:
- Altimeter Tritech PA500/6(Frequency 500 kHz, Beamwidth 6, Range 0.25 to 50m)
- OSTAR Compass (Falmouth Scientific, Inc.): it supplies Heading, Pitch, Roll, Internal temperature.
- Internal Diagnostic Sensors:
- power supply voltage
- current consumption
- internal temperature
- water detector.





(R/V Urania 2001)


and HP5L
(R/V Urania 2001)



Scipack.jpg (126034 byte)

HP5L.jpg (48019 byte)


d - MODUS handling equipment

MODUS operation requires a dedicated handling equipment, composed of:
- an electro-mechanical umbilical cable (Rochester Corp. cable A303379, Φ 25,4 mm, three power conductors + 3 optical fibres, 89 kN working load, 378 kN breaking strength)
- a winch + hydraulic power unit (MacArtney)
- an instrumented sheave (MacArtney)
This equipment (propriety of the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia) has been rented by CoNISMa for the cruise.

d - MODUS surface equipment

It is composed of:
- MODUS power system, transformer, rectifier. The power of about 25 kW for the use of MODUS is provided by an umbilical with three conductors. Transmission is realized by 3 phase 3000 V current. The generators of the ship using standard voltages and currents feed the board unit. The surface transformer unit is equipped with safety devices. On the subsea side the transformer is a closed structure filled with oil and using a pressure compensator. The power is rectified and distributed to the several boxes and units of MODUS.
- Surface control unit. During the mission the monitoring and steering system of MODUS is placed in separate 19-racks in the mission control room on board the ship. The rack includes video recorders, monitors, two computers for data logging and control purposes, the control panel showing all data transferred via telemetry from MODUS, the joystick for steering, and finally it provides the bypass line between MODUS telemetry (NEXUS) and SCICONTROL.



MODUS surface
transformer unit




Details of the
transformer unit



power_unit1.jpg (109107 byte)

power_unit2.jpg (45016 byte)

power_unit3.jpg (43270 byte)

power_unit4.jpg (40730 byte)

power_unit5.jpg (44980 byte)

Parts of the surface control unit:
1: video rack
(2 monitors, 2 video recorders)
2: steering and control rack
(2 computers, 2 monitors)
3: NEXUS telemetry surface unit
4: steering console and keyboard
5: Sonar rack, with:
6: plotter 17'monitor,
7: CPU switch,
8: Tritech sonar surface unit



Surface control unit: control_panel1.jpg (314047 byte)

To control SCISKID and SCIPACK a single PC with 2 serial ports RS232 or two PCs with a single serial port are necessary. The serial channels of SCISKID and SCIPACK are available respectively on Serial Channel 1 and Serial Channel 2 of NEXUS telemetry system. A dedicate Interface program (developed by Tecnomare) allows to open the control panel of SCISKID or SCIPACK by user selection.






Main Panel of


Configuration Panel





control_panel2.jpg (40024 byte)

configuration_panel.jpg (82925 byte)

Sciskid_panel.jpg (96862 byte)

Scipack_panel.jpg (114361 byte)

 Deployment procedures





3-1: SCISKID winch deploys SCIPACK with steel cable.






3-2: Cable stopper at SCISKID takes the load of SCIPACK.






3-3: A-frame lifts MODUS and SCISKID and the whole system is lowered by the large winch.