Equinor has awarded a contract to Eelume, Kongsberg Maritime and DNV GL to develop an environmental monitoring and survey module for the existing Eelume robot platform.

Eelume subsea robot Eely500
Courtesy: Eelume

The module will enable the autonomous range of Eelume robots to contribute and add value within Equinor’s environmental monitoring program.

With this new sensor module, Eelume robots come with an ‘extremely powerful’ instrumentation package. This includes the navigation system from Kongsberg Maritime, multibeam imaging and profiling sonars, HD cameras, ADCP, echosounder, hydrophone, CT, methane, oxygen and also oil-in-water detection.

The module is part of the tetherless and fully autonomous Eelume robot which will be pilot tested later this year.

Earlier this year Eelume secured NOK 3 million from Innovation Norway to develop untethered operation for its resident robot Eely500.

GCE Ocean Technology supported the feasibility study in 2020.

Untethered operations is a prerequisite to enable Eelume’s subsea robot to carry out the missions and collect the data.

The development goal is to reduce the use of surface vessels needed to carry out inspection and intervention subsea.

Another factor is that a resident underwater drone is available 24/7. It can start a mission immediately regardless of a surface ship and weather and wind conditions.

Eelume was established in 2015 as a spin-off from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU); after a decade of research on snake robots in collaboration with the research organization SINTEF.

An autonomous subsea resident robot like Eelume’s is the industry’s first. Having typically 8 thrusters and 1 or 2 joints, the Eely500 has unique manoeuvring and access capabilities. In addition, this gives the drone redundancy which allows it to operate even if faults occur on one or two thrusters.

O&G and Offshore Wind Applications

Advanced, robust autonomy will open up new applications for subsea robots.

While Eelume’s robot, and other subsea resident robots, are being piloted and tested within oil & gas, the use of autonomous robots is highly relevant within other sectors such as offshore wind.

In particular for floating offshore wind farms far away from the coast, autonomous subsea robots are of relevance. The needs and usage are about the same within wind as within oil and gas; inspection of cables and pipelines, moorings and also underwater structures.

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