The Hydrone-R is part of Saipem’s Subsea Robotics Innovation Program conceived to support remote, low-carbon and safe operations in the offshore energy market. Hydrone-R, developed and engineered by Sonsub, Saipem’s center of excellence for subsea technology innovation, is a UID capable of performing construction works as well as advanced autonomous inspections on a wide range of subsea assets thanks to the embedded, proprietary artificial intelligence features.
The vehicle can remain underwater uninterruptedly for up to 12 months, hosted on a subsea docking station, either proprietary or provided by the customer for battery recharging and mission data uploading/downloading. This makes it the first ever resident subsea drone, the company claimed.
When set in resident mode, the Hydrone-R can be remotely supervised and operated from onshore via a remote control room, leveraging on through-water communication links. As an alternative, it can work in fully autonomous mode within an intervention area of +10-km (6-mi) radius. Larger distances can be covered by introducing additional intermediate subsea docking stations, the company said.
According to Saipem, Hydrone-R sets a new paradigm in the planning and execution of underwater inspections and light construction campaigns. A vessel-free execution scheme along with the capability to be at the hot point where immediate checks, diagnostics and, possibly, intervention are required, thus minimizing asset downtime and unlocking a new frontier for less costly and more environmentally-friendly supervision and operation of in-service subsea assets.
The Hydrone-R was selected by Equinor in October 2019 to be the first UID commercially deployed in the Njord field development offshore Norway. This is said to be the first ever worldwide service contract for subsea drones signed in the offshore energy industry.