Unmanned Surface Vehicles Are Here to Stay in the Oil & Gas Industry

Unmanned Surface Vehicles Are Here to Stay in the Oil & Gas Industry

Graham Hine — December 12, 2016

Robotics and underwater vehicles have been used in the Oil & Gas industry for decades. Without the use of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) the industry would be far less efficient than it is today. In recent years, unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) were introduced to the industry and offered a variety of solutions that helped lower cost and improve the efficiency of offshore operations. Over the last few years, Liquid Robotics has been working with Oil & Gas customers to provide innovative solutions to address common challenges within the industry. Our USV, the Wave Glider, provides a unique set of features that have provided new technical capabilities for service providers and operators alike, all while lowering the cost of operations and reducing risk.

Reducing the risk of offshore operations

Working offshore isn’t for the faint of heart. The ocean can be placid one day and incite fear in the most hardened sailor the next, but the Wave Glider thrives in even the worst seas. Using wave and solar power to propel itself, the Wave Glider is uniquely positioned as a long-duration, persistent alternative to expensive vessels or buoys. Having survived hurricanes and crossed oceans, the Wave Glider is rarely limited by sea state or distance, enabling it to access areas that were once too remote, dangerous, or expensive to operate in. Powered by nature, it doesn’t need fossil fuels, it doesn’t get sea sick, and it doesn’t need to make port calls. This flexibility allows customers to access the ocean in ways that they hadn’t before and removes people, risk, and cost from mundane tasks at sea.

Connecting ocean assets

In addition to being a long-duration durable platform, the Wave Glider has the ability to connect and communicate with a variety of assets. Wave Gliders interoperate with unmanned aerial vehicles, satellites, and subsea sensors, linking these assets into a homogenous network of tools. The Wave Glider has helped shift the underwater data collection paradigm by providing real-time connectivity from subsea to space.

Providing solutions

Wave Gliders are currently providing the following solutions for Oil & Gas customers:

  • Environmental Assessment – Wave Gliders provide real-time meteorological and oceanographic measurements directly to an operator’s desktop or bridge.
  • Gateway Communications – Wave Gliders link sub-surface and seafloor sensors to shore side teams using an acoustic modem.
  • Surface Hydrocarbon Monitoring – Wave Gliders are mobile vehicles used to detect the presence of residual hydrocarbons at the water’s surface and serve a wide range of needs from environmental monitoring, to sub-sea pipeline leak detection, to monitoring around rigs and other infrastructure.

Risk and cost management drive offshore operational priorities. USVs, and in particular Wave Gliders, enable innovative system architectures that offer new ways to drive towards lower risk and lower cost. Innovation itself can be a risk, of course, but the Oil & Gas industry has always been on the forefront of subsea unmanned technology and we are excited for the coming months and years as USVs and Digital Ocean architectures mature in the industry and open new technical doors.