Disabled sailor explores sea with remotely operated vehicle

Once a keen mariner but injured in an accident, Rob Arro observes depths with remote vehicle

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 May, 2013, 8:18am

A horrific boating accident five years ago left sailor Rob Arro paralysed on the left side of his body, but state-of-the-art technology has given him the chance to roam the waters once more.

Arro recently bought a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which can be used either in water or on land. For the past two weeks he has been trying it out at home and at the Hebe Haven Yacht Club, of which he is a member. He is happy with the results so far.

"The idea is that you contribute to the design. The kit for this ROV was about US$1,000," said Arro, 45.

"I am very good with digital equipment. I do binary stuff naturally. This is my forte. Hopefully I can benefit from using this and help with the design of other models."

Once a keen sailor, Arro can now take the ROV out with him while on a boat and use it to see under the water.

He can use it on land using Wi-Fi, with his smartphone displaying what the ROV is seeing.

"The actions of an idiot left me physically disabled. Living alone, an ROV helps me. It can go places I could never go on land, and the underwater ROV helps me be involved in the water when I'm out boating with friends," Arro said.

"Disabled people have unique skills. Let's put these unique skills to good use if we can. Also, there's considerably less carbon being generated where the payload does not involve a human."

Originally from Zimbabwe, Arro has lived in Hong Kong for 23 years and worked in the computer industry. For the past 2½ years he has also competed internationally in para-equestrian dressage competitions around the world. He was initially selected to take part in the London Paralympics as part of Hong Kong's equestrian team, but was later ruled ineligible to compete.

"I want to try and make disabled people useful. I believe that using and developing ROVs is one way of doing this."