Advances Needed to Untether AUVs From Support Vessels

Image courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
In the future, resident autonomous underwater vehicles may be able to communicate with onshore monitoring centers through the use of submerged modems that link the vehicles to satellite transmitter buoys on the surface.

For years, the oil and gas industry has used autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) for simple tasks such as underwater surveys and inspection. However, because of their technical limitations, AUVs have not been able to compete with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), which are already standard equipment for most offshore projects.

While the market for AUVs remains modest, they are being used in deep­water oil and gas plays around the world. “AUVs are not a commodity yet, but they are getting there,” said Richard Mills, AUV sales manager at Kongsberg Maritime. He added that one Kongsberg customer has a long-term AUV contract with Petrobras for the use of two vehicles offshore Brazil.

High-resolution large-area seabed surveys are the oil and gas industry’s primary use for AUVs today, said Mills. Although ship-towed sonar arrays have been used for decades in ocean floor mapping, the sensors cannot reach the absolute bottom in many cases.

On the other hand, AUVs can glide just a few meters above the ocean floor to create higher-quality images of the seabed and subsurface.

Despite some unique advantages, the power, communications, and launch-and-recovery systems of AUVs will need improvements in order to make the leap from rig jewelry to a trusted tool.

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Advances Needed to Untether AUVs From Support Vessels

Jack Betz, JPT Staff Writer

01 July 2015

Volume: 67 | Issue: 7


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