Innovation and digitalisation in subsea robotics

Innovation and digitalisation in subsea robotics


ROVOP, the truly focussed, global robotics specialist with an unrivalled track record of reliability and a technologically advanced fleet of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), has long recognised the potential for digital technology to drive increased efficiency and improve working practices in the subsea sector.

Advances in mobile computing, connectivity and cloud are changing the world in which we live and work. The offshore energy industry is already applying these digital era technologies to enable new field developments, improve production efficiency and reduce operation and maintenance costs. Additionally, advances in robotics and their application will play a major role in ensuring the offshore sector remains attractive in a competitive energy landscape.

Communications as an enabler

In the same way that evolving communication technologies are driving societal and business transformation on land, new ways of working offshore are now made possible. High-speed communication links allow operators and service companies to extend the offshore worksite into the office space onshore. This has numerous benefits but most notably reduces the need to send expert personnel offshore and provides instant access for onshore teams to monitor operations.

Furthering the worksite extension concept are developments such as remote ROV piloting. This has been accelerated by the emergence of low latency 4G LTE networks offshore, currently concentrated in the North Sea and areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

In other areas of the world where communication latencies remain high, it is more difficult to control the ROV using conventional techniques - the vehicles themselves must become smarter, requiring further developments in smart ROV control and task automation.

Doing more with what you have

AUVs and fast ROVs targeted at survey and inspection applications offer further cost savings in the management of subsea assets. The required data can be acquired much faster than conventional ROV methods, reducing the length of vessel campaigns. Data quality is key, with data typically being processed onshore.

Conventional AUVs are well established in seabed mapping and survey applications. However their value can often be limited by the requirement to maintain close contact with a vessel for launch and recovery and in-mission position updates.  

Next generation AUVs are in development which can operate fully independently of a host vessel, unlocking the true value of autonomy. These robotic capabilities can be combined with conventional ROV modes to create hybrid systems, capable of being controlled from onshore when a communications link is available. Human supervision will remain important for delicate interventions on high value subsea assets.

Technologies enabling new ways of working

The subsea industry has historically been a breeding ground for technological innovation and that is likely to continue in the future. Some new entrants to the sector include snake-shaped robots and vehicles that change form-factor to carry out different work such as surveys for intervention.

The technologies being developed will enable new ways of deploying subsea robotics, from field resident vehicles (both subsea and platform hosted) and ROVs deployed from unmanned vessels. These concepts will ensure a rapid response, maximise weather windows and therefore increase the availability of service, as well as enabling profitable new developments, particularly in remote areas.

ROVOP’s head of technology Lee Wilson said: “ROVOP has, since its inception, used the very latest in subsea robotics systems to deliver a high quality and reliable service.

We recognise the continuing pace of innovation within our industry and intend to remain at the forefront by shaping exciting new developments to meet our clients’ needs.”

With headquarters in Aberdeen and Houston, ROVOP’s global scope encompasses the oil and gas, offshore wind, telecoms and power transmission industries. For further information, please visit www.rovop.com

Published: 27-04-2019

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