Of all the robotics technologies we look at, few seem to undergo the same level of innovation as ROVs and UAVs.
Perhaps this is tied to the myriad sectors that inform remote vehicle development. Advances in communications, batteries, electrification, sensors and autonomy are all driving progress in different ways, lending this particular subset of the industry a momentum not seen elsewhere.
The potential for cost reduction too is a major factor. Although ROVs can handle more subsea tasks than ever, and the use of aerial drones for topside inspection is now more commonplace, there are still gains to be made. On the seabed, engineers are working increasingly towards “resident” solutions – robots which can be permanently deployed to inspect and maintain their respective assets – as a way of dramatically reducing the need to send multiple vessels and crews offshore.
The same is true on land. In this issue, for example, we look at the solution proposed by Canadian start-up SkyX. Using a proprietary drone design – a hybrid between a quadcopter and a fixed-wing UAV – the company intends to establish an autonomous network capable of surveying hundreds of miles of pipelines, all without human intervention. The cost advantage of such a method compared with frequent visual inspection missions by road or by helicopter is substantial.
Elsewhere, we dig deeper into the modular autonomous ROV programme being developed by the Technical University of Denmark, dubbed REMORA, as well as our cover feature – a collision-resistant drone for inspecting enclosed indoor spaces, from Swiss firm Flyability. In addition, we look at innovations from JFSE, Saipem, Hydrason and more.
Not entirely outside the world of remotely operated robots, Rolls-Royce is working on even bigger plans. This month saw it test the world’s first remotely operated commercial vessel, in the form of a tug boat in Copenhagen. As the technology gains traction and secures regulation, similar systems could soon be sending supplies to platforms and ports all over the world.
Elsewhere, we look at new technology-supporting grants available from the US Department of Energy, an innovative and space-saving gas dehydration solution proposed by Norway’s Minox Technology, the need for regulation around gas storage capacity, and gain insight into the dramatic production boosts secured by EOG Resources’ EOR programme in the Eagle Ford Shale.For now, however, we wish our readers well during the typically quieter August period, and look forward to seeing many of you at Offshore Europe in September.