Saipem‘s Sonsub division has announced that its Hydrone-R unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) has begun endurance and qualification tests in water prior to the planned commercialisation of the vehicle.
The Hydrone Program is the key portion of Saipem’s Technology Development Plan within subsea robotics – a strategic move aimed at changing the paradigm of underwater inspections and interventions via a fleet of next-generation drones and advanced ancillary equipment.
The inception phase of the Hydrone plan was executed by Sonsub, where Saipem has its centre for Subsea Technologies & Product Development. The Hydrone Program encompasses three vehicles – Hydrone-R, Hydrone-S and Hydrone-W – for which Saipem has anticipated a phased commercialisation throughout 2019 and 2020.
Hydrone-R, the first unit to be launched , is an underwater intervention drone capable of performing light construction work as well as advanced inspection on subsea assets thanks to a series of sensors embedded onboard and proprietary Artificial Intelligence features for unmanned navigation and autonomous anomaly detection on a wide range of subsea systems.
“The core technologies embedded on board Hydrone-R are at the forefront of the industry and they will certainly mark a step change into the Life of Field business. Safety and operational efficiency will both dramatically benefit from Hydrone-R and the entire Hydrone Program in the years to come,” said Saipem E&C Offshore Division COO Stefano Porcari.
The vehicle can remain underwater for up to 12 months at a time, making it what the company claims is the first ever resident subsea drone. In this resident mode, Hydrone-R features wireless operation and can be connected to subsea infrastructures via through-water communication links. It can cover an area within a 10-km radius for inspections and interventions. An even larger distance can be covered via intermediate subsea docking stations for recharging, mission download or data upload, thus offering an unlimited range of operations.
As an alternative, Hydrone-R can be launched subsea and then retrieved on the surface upon completion of the mission following a more conventional operational model.
“We are proud of being the forerunner in this technology. Our extensive qualification test campaign has been thoroughly scrutinized by DNV GL and other reputable experts in order to attain a third-party qualification for subsea resident use by November 2019,” said Roberto Di Silvestro, Head of Sonsub.
The Hydrone-R addresses the increasing industry demand for subsea technologies that reduce reliance on offshore support vessels and more remote operations. The downturn has only increased interest, as oil companies seek ways to reduce the cost of operating and maintaining subsea installations.
“Having something that can intervene in an autonomous way will reduce vessel costs and the overall carbon footprint for sure, but it will also improve the uptime of a subsea asset thanks to the capability of the Hydrone-R to intervene faster and more efficiently,” continued Di Silvestro.