Opto 22 (www.opto22.com) played a central role in the reliable operation of filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron's technologically advanced prototype submersible DEEPSEA CHALLENGER. Cameron recently piloted the submersible in a successful descent of almost 7 miles (11 km) to the "Challenger Deep," the deepest point in the world's oceans. Cameron's descent was part of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition, a joint scientific expedition by James Cameron, National Geographic and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research and exploration to learn more about the biology and geology of the deepest point on Earth.
Aboard the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, Opto 22's SNAP PAC System, a computer-based, programmable automation control system, acts as a central controller that manages more than 180 interconnected onboard systems, including sensors, batteries, thrusters, life support, lighting, and 3D cameras. The SNAP PAC System additionally records depth, temperature, pressure, battery status, and other vital data from the submersible, periodically transmitting the information to a support vessel on the surface.
The SNAP PAC System's core ability to communicate with all onboard sub-systems eliminated the need for signal converters and extra hardware, reducing complexity and increasing reliability. Since most electronic systems and the submersible's human pilot occupy a cramped 43-in. (109 cm) diameter pilot sphere, these communications capabilities-as well as the compact size of SNAP PAC System components-saved much-needed space.