UK-made subsea robots 'significantly outperform' expectations, step closer to commercialization

UK-made subsea robots ‘significantly outperform’ expectations, step closer to commercialization

UK-Based Blue Ocean Seismic Services has completed a set of trials of its autonomous subsea survey vehicles said to represent a big step towards commercialization.

With this latest series of trials, Blue Ocean Seismic Services said it had confirmed that its autonomous undersea robots can reliably operate, accurately navigate, and record quality seismic data in challenging real-world tidal conditions.

The five-day trials saw multiple vehicles operating simultaneously in Loch Linnhe, a tidal sea loch on the west coast of Scotland, which showed they can efficiently transit and navigate to a target location on the seabed, land, increase their weight to couple to the seabed, record seismic data, take-off and navigate to a new location multiple times before returning to the surface.

“This trial is a significant step in the validation of our technology, representing a massive milestone for Blue Ocean Seismic Services and the seismic acquisition industry more broadly,” said Ben Hollings, Chief Technology Officer at Blue Ocean Seismic Services.

“The trial was conducted as a test case for commercial operation standpoint and, combined with the previous sea trials, we have now successfully completed a broad range of testing of our prototype subsea vehicles in a range of environments that validate our technology for operational scale-up and readiness.”

According to Blue Ocean Seismic Services, the subsea robots outperformed a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) positioned ocean bottom nodes and recorded an unexpected earth tremor that occurred at the time.

The UK company also noted that due to the challenging tidal conditions of the sea loch, the untethered robots were often pushed off course but consistently and autonomously corrected to complete operations. The robots were controlled and commanded via surface and subsurface communications, demonstrating the ability to land within 10 meters of the target.

The team also conducted a Proof of Concept – testing Starlink communications as a future pathway for communication and data transfer in remote offshore operations.

The dataset acquired during the trials, as well as the data from a series of trials held in Loch Ness late last year and Perth, Australia, earlier this year, is set to allow engineers to further refine the vehicle and control software and move towards the scale up to commercial operations, targeted for Q4 2024.

By removing the overall need for energy-intensive exploration vessels and ROVs, the technology is expected to reduce seismic survey costs by more than 50 per cent and substantially reduce associated carbon emissions. The vehicles can also reduce the impact on the seabed and sea life compared to conventional methods of collecting seismic data, the UK company concluded.