GLOBAL Underwater Hub (GUH) recently hosted the 2022 edition of its annual Underwater Robotics Conference.
The one-day hybrid event was held in the GUH’s event studio at its offices in Westhill, Aberdeen, attracting over 70 delegates who either attended in-person or virtually. Discussion centred around the latest advances in underwater robotic technology and the opportunities and challenges presented by an autonomous future, both underwater and on the surface of the water.
The annual conference was first held a decade ago and has become a staple of the organisation’s event calendar. Sessions at this year’s event, which was sponsored by Impact Subsea, maxon and Underwater Robotics Magazine, covered underwater vehicles, navigation, sensors and electronics, and power and capability.
The conference was opened by Eric Primeau, senior technical specialist at BP, who gave an operator’s perspective of the future use of ROV (remotely operated vehicles) and AUV (autonomous underwater vehicles) technologies. He also highlighted how advances in underwater robotics can improve efficiency and contribute to the reduction in costs associated with subsea inspection, maintenance and repair.
Delegates also heard presentations from a range of companies. Lex Veerhuis, development manager – new business with Fugro, explored how changing to uncrewed offshore operations can enable safer, faster and more sustainable services. The potential for hybrid AUV systems to reduce costs and carbon emissions associated with seabed survey and inspection campaigns was the focus of a presentation by Modus Subsea Services’ sales manager Graeme Jacques.
Three presentations explored developments in ROV technologies and tooling. The latest generation of mechanical scanning sensor technologies, the world’s smallest underwater robotic arm system and the capabilities of combined acoustic and inertial sensors were the subject of presentations delivered by Impact Subsea, maxon and Nortek.
Advances in automation and uncrewed vessels featured in presentations by Ocean Infinity, Oceaneering and Verlume. Oceaneering gave insight into the eight-year development and technology readiness testing of its Freedom autonomous vehicle, while Ocean Infinity detailed the capabilities of its Armada Fleet of unmanned surface vessels that can deploy and operate ROVs and other subsea payloads. Verlume provided an overview of its Halo subsea battery system and communication gateway that can power underwater assets with offshore renewable energy, generating electricity on demand.
Illustrating the transferability of skills, technology and capability within the underwater sector, representatives of Sonardyne and SMD Ltd discussed the use of ROVs in the rapidly evolving offshore wind market.
Neil Gordon, chief executive of Global Underwater Hub, who chaired the day, said: “ROV technology has advanced hugely since the first devices were used in the defence sector over 60 years ago, with the subsea industry driving much of that innovation and the UK playing a pivotal role. Automation, artificial intelligence and communication technologies are combining to further transform the capabilities of ROVs.
“This year’s Underwater Robotics Conference showcased the latest developments in ROVs, and autonomous or unmanned underwater vehicles and surface vessels. Some of the presentations highlighted real innovations, demonstrating the potential that these devices have to support underwater operations and contribute to reductions in carbon emissions.
“With the global growth in offshore renewable energy projects and its associated underwater infrastructure, coupled with the projected increase in aquaculture production worldwide, and it is clear that there is strong future demand for ROVs, AUVs and ASVs.”