Testing under way of underwater intervention drone

Aug. 2, 2019

Offshore staff

SAN DONATO MILANESE, Italy – Last month Saipem subsidiary Sonsub began endurance and qualification tests of its Hydrone-R underwater intervention drone.

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.

Entirely executed by the Sonsub center, the program consists of Hydrone-S, an advanced AUV; Hydrone-R, a resident hybrid ROV/AUV; and Hydrone-W, a resident redeployable ROV. Saipem said it 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. It has 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, according to Sonsub. In this resident mode, the vehicle features wireless operability and can be connected to subsea infrastructures via through-water communication links. It can cover an area within a 10-km (6-mi) radius for inspections and interventions. In addition, more distance can be covered via intermediate subsea docking stations for recharging, mission download or data upload.

The Hydrone-R addresses the increasing industry demand for subsea technologies that reduce reliance on offshore support vessels and more remote operations, the company said.

Stefano Porcari, COO of Saipem’s E&C Offshore Division, said: “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…”

Roberto Di Silvestro, Head of Sonsub, added: “… 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…”