Saipem-Sonsub’s Hydrone-R underwater intervention drone was launched in water on July 1 to start the endurance and qualification tests prior to its commercialization by year’s end, the company reported on July 31.
The Hydrone Program is the key workstream 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 Hydrone program, entirely executed by the Sonsub Centre, encompasses three vehicles, namely Hydrone-R, Hydrone-S and Hydrone-W for which Saipem has anticipated a phased commercialization throughout 2019 and 2020.
Hydrone-R, the first unit to be launched in the market, is an underwater intervention drone capable of performing light construction works as well as advanced inspections 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 vehicle can remain underwater uninterruptedly for 12 months, making it the first ever resident subsea drone. In this resident mode, Hydrone-R features wireless operability and can be connected to subsea infrastructures via through-water communication links It can cover an area within a 10-km (six miles) 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.
The Hydrone-R addresses the increasing industry demand for subsea technologies that reduce reliance on offshore support vessels and more remote operations. Indeed, oil companies are seeking ways to reduce the cost of operating and maintaining subsea installations.
“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,” Stefano Porcari, Saipem E&C offshore division COO, said.