Swiss-Norwegian partnership developing mini resident underwater drone system
Switzerland-based autonomous underwater robotics company Hydromea has partnered up with Unplugged, a Norwegian firm focused on inductive charging and data transfer technology, to develop a resident underwater drone system for the inspection and monitoring of underwater assets.
Under the project, the partners are set to develop a robust, resident drone solution for the offshore energy industry, with the initial focus on the aquaculture industry.
According to Hydromea, the system will be designed to remain underwater for months at a time and perform daily data sweeps, providing farmers with up-to-date comprehensive condition monitoring of its operations remotely.
The partnership received €2 million in grant funding from their respective national organizations and the project is expected to take 30 months to complete.
“Through this partnership with Hydromea, we will be addressing the emerging demand for low-footprint drone platforms to provide low-power underwater residency. Such a platform will enable the harvesting and transfer of data, establishing collaborative communication links between sensors, infrastructure, and larger vehicles,” said Thomas Meyer, COO of Unplugged.
“All this in a continuous remote operation without the need to engage a surface vessel. This shall open up new ways to think about asset condition monitoring and a giant step towards a digital twin capability underwater.”
Igor Martin, Hydromea’s CEO, notes that the demand for condition monitoring of the underwater assets will explode over the next decade with the ongoing move to automation of offshore energy operations and projected double-digit annual growth rate of the blue ocean economy in the offshore renewables, aquaculture and kelp farming market sectors.
“Building a digital twin of an asset underwater is currently close to impossible. The incumbent technologies are largely developed around defense and offshore oil & gas sectors that can afford the size and cost of complex systems. However, the economics of the upcoming emerging sectors are such that they require robust, lower-cost, and miniaturized continuous monitoring solutions,” Martin said.
“We are excited to help address this by combining our expertise in portable robotics and underwater communication technology with Unplugged unrivaled expertise in underwater induction technology.”