Sonar, GPS, Robots: The Science of Underwater Recovery

Using sonar before sending divers down will also prevent another danger to divers: pollutants.

"Because these vehicles are in the water, there's going to be a lot pollutants. Oil and gas," he said. "The ROVs reduce the physical as well as the chemical hazards to the diver."

ROVs Offered for Rescue

The sheriff's department in St. Louis County, Minn., about 140 miles from Minneapolis, has offered its ROVs to Minneapolis authorities, Dave Phillips, the undersheriff of St. Louis County, told

St. Louis County has primarily used ROVs for recovering drowning victims and cars that have fallen through the ice. Phillips called a bridge collapse over water "incredibly rare."

"Public safety dive teams in general are trained just for that purpose [to rescue drowning victims]," Phillips said. "To get a structural collapse is just a whole different thing all together."

Divers, however, aren't left out of the technological equation, according to Shane Weinreis who runs the U.S. Water Rescue Dive Team, a public safety dive team in Montana. The tricky rescue dives often require high-tech equipment, from special dry suits to helmets.

"There's a lot of good equipment out there that's actually been on the market for a lot of years that will protect a diver from head to toe," Weinreis said. "The downside is it's extremely expensive. The technology is definitely out there, [but] not every dive team would necessarily have that."

Even if divers did have the most technologically advanced equipment, they wouldn't be able to do their jobs without the proper training, he said.

"Recreational divers aren't trained how to handle these hazards or any contingency plans. That's what public safety divers do — trained to handle these types of things," he said. "Without the training you can give a recreational diver all the equipment but it's not going to do any good. … [A diver] needs to be able to handle that emergency like second nature."

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