Presentation visuals for a new class of underwater robotic drones.
Imagine an environment hundreds, even thousands of feet beneath the sea. Millions of dollars worth of equipment connected by miles of pipelines silently working in complete darkness. The only humans are safely hundreds of feet above and many, many miles away. Key components relay critical data to the surface in real time, but what about the health of the entire structure? How do you inspect such a huge operation and see potential hazards before they become problems? TecPM, in collaboration with BP, conceived of a new technology to solve the problem. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, armed with 3D maps of assets on the seafloor, designed for long range inspection tasks without the need for human control.
Offshore companies have used ROVs for decades, but these are different. The major difference was that these vehicles were autonomous and untethered, meaning they lacked the umbilical to the surface that supplied power and operator control. They were intended for long range tasks where they could travel several miles, and operate based on a preprogrammed set of instructions, without the need or ability to communicate to operators on the surface.
A typical scenario would involve an AUV to be deployed from a tender ship, where it would descend to the location of the pipeline or equipment it was assigned to inspect. Using pre recorded 3D maps of the ocean terrain, it would be able to navigate to the correct location by using sonar scans to compare its position to the maps in real time. Once it arrived at the beginning of the pipeline it would begin to travel the length of pipeline as it travelled from one end to the other, continuously sweeping the pipeline with its sensors and comparing the data to previous recordings. If and when anything anomalous would turn up, for example sunken debris that wasn’t there before, the AUV would circle back and activate its lights and cameras and record video of the anomaly.
These AUVs could be programmed to inspect equipment installed over an entire oilfield without the need for a ship on the surface to be overhead at all times. Once the task had been completed, the AUV would surface and transmit its location to the tender ship for retrieval.