dance together," says Bunting.
While many systems use either a buried wire or other visual
cues, the TTS lives up to its namesake, remaining truly trackless.
"Our vehicles are truly free ranging. We can draw the ride path on
the computer, the program is then downloaded into the vehicle,
and [the vehicle] runs that path highly accurately and repeatedly,"
Designing a Truly Trackless System
OES brought together technology from multiple disciplines. In
addition to the AGV industry, the company also pulled in power
management and a battery charging system that Bunting describes
as the ‘special sauce’ that makes it all possible.
"The system allows us to run the vehicles 24/7, taking advantage of opportunity charging in the load and unload stations,"
explains Bunting, as the rides are designed to operate up to 16
hours each day.
Once again seeking help from
industry experts, the team turned
inward toward their own space
division (Oceaneering Space
Systems) for fine tuning the
“OSS has done so much
research in battery technology to
put things up in outer space in
extremely harsh environments,
and they have to work every
time,” explains Bunting.
“It challenges your engineering
prowess to do things in a bunch
of different realms. We are able
to share these technologies that
we develop and apply them to all
kinds of different businesses,” he
adds. “All of them, from an engineering standpoint, are interrelated. The same kind of technologies
that we use in our ride systems
can be used in the systems that
are built for the Navy or even offshore ROVs.”
Integration & Installation
The last piece of technology OES
needed for the ride to succeed
has only been available in the
last couple of years – the ability to execute high volume data
transfers over secure wireless
"Three or four years ago, with the volume of data we had to pass,
we just couldn't do it quickly enough and reliably enough," says
Bunting. "Those systems have developed so much in the last few
years that that was the last piece of technology that we needed to
apply to the ride system and make it all work."
With the three pieces of technology in place – the battery system,
navigation, and the ability to do high-volume data transfers – the
team’s prototyping process remained fairly simple.
“We put together a rapid-prototyped vehicle, which incorporated all of these different technologies, to proof-of-concept the
guest experience portion,” explains Bunting. “After all, everything
we are doing really needs to support the guest experience and
the storytelling, and the technology should be primarily invisible
Building the vehicle took about eight weeks, but the most chal-
lenging aspect was integrating the many different technologies,
including an additional overview sys-
tem to provide the safety redundan-
cy, which is required in the themed
"The third hierarchy of ride control system is programmable logic
controller based, and provides the
redundancy that we need to deploy
it in a guest environment. It’s not
workers in a warehouse anymore,"
says Bunting. "It's your
grandma and your four year
Although many of the
technologies were not originally developed for the ride
system, OES brought them
together to develop a new
type of ride for the themed
"We took these technol-
ogies that were available
in other industries and put
them together for the first
time into a ride system tech-
nology and then added our mechan-
ical design," explains Bunting. “It
could be a covered wagon, a boat, or
a spaceship, it doesn't really matter.”
The vehicles are scalable and
can be manufactured to many
shapes and sizes, making the
Tru-Trackless Ride System “the
show designer’s ultimate flexibility
dream come true.”
Enter the Penguin
The vehicles are battery powered, responding to central programming commands including vehicle-to-vehicle communication thru GPS positioning methods.
Vehicles’ batteries are charged during load stops and do not need additional nightly charging requirements. Each vehicle is supported and propelled by fully steered
wheel assemblies. Seating sections can rotate and tilt in any direction independent of the vehicle motions.