Interview with Todd Gregory

Earlier this month we had the pleasure of speaking with the well known principal mechanical engineer, Todd Gregory, who has played a key part in the bulk of the ROV design work for NOAA, OET, the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration and many other esteemed organizations within the Oceanographic Exploration industry. Mr. Gregory has spent many years working with Dr. Robert Ballard at the Institute for Exploration where he helped design the ROV Hercules, and worked on countless other systems like Little Herc and D2, logging thousands of dives collectively over the years. If you haven’t checked out our blog about Dr. Ballard, be sure to click here to learn more!

We first dove into Todd Gregory’s background and what initially sparked his interest in deep sea exploration. Mr. Gregory studied naval architecture ship design in Long Island then proceeded to attain his masters out in Hawaii. He said, “while I was there, I got involved in the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab, [because] undersea technology seemed like a pretty cool thing to get into. As you know with the buoyancy blocks [when designing underwater vehicles], the balance and the trim is so critical and the background in naval architecture plugged right into that.” 

Mr. Gregory and the ESS founders’ relationship began before ESS was even established. One of the first projects that ESS founder, Thom Murray, directly worked on with Mr. Gregory, involved providing buoyancy blocks for an AUV that the Ballard Institute built. From then on, ESS and Mr. Gregory have worked together on several projects that are out in the field today.

We asked about the many projects that Mr. Gregory has worked on and specifically went over the topic of syntactic foam, densities and how he chooses a specific density when designing an oceanographic vehicle. He explained that controlling the density of the materials is crucial to achieving the desired buoyancy levels when building a vehicle, especially when it comes to lower density foam and lower depths. When talking about ESS, he said, “you guys have always landed really close to the nominal density when it’s all done, I think in part because, as Thom has shown me in the past, how you make the blocks, machine the blocks, control the density as it’s cured, and then bond it together, so you have a great control of the density of the materials.” ESS has put countless years into perfecting the process of making syntactic foam and it reflects in the quality of our products that customers see today. 

During our talk, Mr. Gregory also touched on how important water absorption, durability and part finishes are when designing vehicles and how every factor plays an important part. ESS syntactic foam performs very well under water and Mr. Gregory noted that he hasn’t seen any notable water absorption in the deep water vehicles and the ROV blocks. What he has noticed is the inconsistency within the industry when it comes to part finish standards and how frustrating it can be when a company doesn’t meet expectations. Coatings like fiberglass and urethane are applied onto syntactic foam which require a little more durability in their applications and different paint jobs are required for appearance purposes. At ESS, we are able to coat syntactic foam with fiberglass and urethane which varies in thickness and are also capable of class 1, 2 and 3 paint jobs. Mr. Gregory kindly added, “I have to congratulate you guys, you say you’re really good at paint jobs and you really are. You have always done an awesome awesome awesome job cosmetically.”

We can’t thank Mr. Gregory enough for taking the time to speak with us and for all the kind words he said about ESS. We truly learned a lot about the industry and gained a lot of good insight from one of the best engineers in the field today. If you have any questions about what we do or have any project inquiries, please contact us at or (508) 226-3901.We hope to hear from you soon!

Click here to check out the interview on YouTube.