ROV Zonnebloem | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research

ROV Zonnebloem

The VLIZ Marine Robotics Centre owns the Remotely Operated Vehicle or ROV Zonnebloem (*) that is deployed nationally, for research in the Belgian part of the North Sea, and internationally mainly for deep-sea research.

What is an ROV?

A Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) is an underwater vehicle that is connected to and controlled by operators on the surface. ROV Zonnebloem – formerly known as ROV Genesis – can dive to a depth of 1,300 m. During international campaigns, the ROV is therefore mainly used for deep-sea research. It provides the opportunity to explore the largely unknown deep-ocean margins and their biodiversity. Zonnebloem is used to film, and take samples of, deep-sea canyons, cold-water coral reefs, carbonate mounds, mud volcanoes, cold seeps, etc. Since 2015, the ROV is also deployed from the RV Simon Stevin for scientific campaigns in the Belgian part of the North Sea. Both the RV Simon Stevin and the ROV are fit for shallow coastal water: to take bottom cores, investigate shipwrecks or to map the sea bottom.

The compact ROV Zonnebloem is equipped with a Tether Management System (TMS). The TMS is the cradle where in the ROV is lowered to and lifted from the seafloor, and acts like the home base for the ROV once it reaches its sampling site. The ROV controller, or pilot, follows every action on screens from a control room – a container mounted on the research vessel.

The vehicle is equipped with several lights, with both colour and high resolution video and picture cameras which can film and take pictures, as with a laser measuring system. The depth, course, height, swell and slope are continuously registered, as are the temperature and salinity of the water. A hydraulic working arm can perform simple samplings or taking small bottom cores, and allows the ROV to assist other underwater machinery.

Click here for an infographic for ROV Zonnebloem (formerly Genesis)

Click here for an animated video of ROV Zonnebloem (formerly Genesis)

Click here for pictures of ROV Zonnebloem (formerly Genesis)

Click here for videos of ROV Zonnebloem (formerly Genesis)

Why use an ROV?

  • An ROV can collect samples in difficult to access locations such as deep sea canyons, cold water coral reefs, carbonate mounds, mud volcanoes, methane sources, etc.
  • Hotspots of life are commonly discovered in extreme environments. Such hotspots could contain life forms that are sometimes completely new for the science. The ROV is an ideal research instrument to explore such hotspots.
  • Real-time view of the seafloor at great depths.


The ROV has been operational since 2006 under its former name Genesis, and has explored nearly all ocean basins: from the Atlantic and Indian Ocean to the Southern Pacific Ocean and the Antarctic Ocean. The ROV has hitherto (anno 2018) completed 29 campaigns:



Research Vessel

Belgian part of the North Sea - Kwinte & Thornton area November 2019

RV Simon Stevin

Mediterranean Sea (Gulf of Malaga) August 2019 RV Sarmiento de Gamboa

Porcupine Basin (west of Ireland)

June 2019 RV Belgica

Mediterranean Sea (Gulf of Malaga)

August 2018

RV Sarmiento de Gamboa

Belgian part of the North Sea – various locations

July 2018

RV Simon Stevin

Porcupine Basin (west of Ireland)

May-June 2018

RV Belgica

Belgian part of the North Sea – various locations

August 2017

RV Simon Stevin

Rockall Bank, latitude of West-Ireland

Mei 2017

RV Pelagia

Belgian part of the North Sea, latitude of Hinder banks

August 2015

RV Simon Stevin

Atlantic Ocean, latitude of Galicean Border

September 2014

RV Meteor

Mediterannean Sea (Alborian Sea)

June 2014

RV Pelagia

Atlantic Ocean, latitude of Western Iberian Border

May 2014

RV Pelagia

Dogger Bank

September 2013

RV Pelagia

Western Iberian Margin - Lissabon (Portugal)

June 2013

RV Belgica

Alborian Sea - Motril (Spain)

April 2013

RV Pelagia

Dogger Bank

June 2012

RV Pelagia

Offshore Northern Perth Basin, Indian Ocean - Fremantle (Australia)

October 2011

RV S. Surveyor

Haakon Mosby Mud Volcano - Tromsø (Norway)

September 2010

RV Maria S. Merian

Guilvinec Canyon - Bay of Biscay

June 2010

RV Belgica

Whittard Canyon - Bay of Biscay

June 2010

RV Belgica

Antarctic Peninsula - western and eastern side - Punta Arenas (Chili)

January-March 2010

RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer

Cabo Ortegal - Vigo (Spain) - Zeebrugge (Belgium)

May-June 2009

RV Belgica

Gulf of Cadiz - Cadiz - Vigo (Spain)

May 2009

RV Belgica

West Nile Delta - Heraklion (Greece) - Port Said (Egypt)

November 2008

RV Pelagia

Guilvinec Canyon - Bay of Biscay - Brest (France) - La Coruna (Spain)

May-June 2008

RV Belgica

Gulf of Cadiz - Cadiz (Spain)

Juni 2007

RV Belgica

Hikurangi Margin - Napier - Auckland (New-Zealand)

February 2007

RV Sonne

Denmark Strait - Reykjavik (Iceland)

September 2006

RRS Discovery

La Chapelle Bank - Brest (France)  & Bantry Bay - Cork (Ireland)

June 2006

RV Belgica



The ROV has been operational since 2006 under its former name Genesis. The remotely operated vehicle and accompanying equipment were purchased by Ghent University and put into use by the Renard Centre for Marine Geology and the Marine Biology Section. In 2012 Ghent University donated ROV Genesis to VLIZ, which ensures the management and the operations of the ROV. A practical cooperation agreement between VLIZ and NIOZ (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research) had been concluded to facilitate the management and deployment of the ROV. Since 2015, the ROV has been regularly put to use for research in the Belgian part of the North Sea. It is there deployed from the RV Simon Stevin.

(*) On the occasion of the official launch of the VLIZ Marine Robotics Center in September 2019, the ROV genesis was renamed as ROV Zonnebloem. With the naming of its underwater robots, VLIZ wants to honor the ingenious inventors and professors from famous Belgian comic series. Professor Zonnebloem (Professor Calculus) is a character from the comic series Tintin by cartoonist Hergé.

How to make use of the ROV?

The goal remains to deploy the ROV Zonnebloem worldwide for marine research, both on the initiative of VLIZ as well as by request of other marine research groups. If a marine scientific institute wants to make use of the ROV, please contact the Marine Robotics Centre of VLIZ:

Use and conditions

Note: if you use the ROV Zonnebloem of VLIZ as a scientist, please refer to it in your publications as: 'This work was supported by data & infrastructure provided by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ)'.

Technical details

  • ROV Physical dimensions
    • Length: 1.4 meters
    • Width: 1 meter
    • Height: 1.1 meter
    • Weight: ~300 kg
  • TMS Physical dimensions
    • Length: 2 meters
    • Width: 1.2 meters
    • Height: 2.4 meter
    • Weight: ~700 kg
  • Total combined system weight: 1500 kg
  • Operational Parameters
    • Operating depth: 1300m
    • 4 thrusters
    • Data overlay in video feed
  • Scientific payload
    • HD Camera with lasers
    • SD camera's (4)
    • Blueview acoustic camera
    • Coring system
    • CTD