Dragon-robot: underwater autorepair


Progress has stepped far, and thousands of kilometers of pipelines are already easy to lay along the ocean floor. Difficulties come later, when the time comes for repairs or planned work. The bottom line: the infrastructure of the oil and gas industry is expensive, especially in maintenance.

Do you think these are the “hunters” from the movie The Matrix? But no! These are modern repair drones. Analysts estimate that the global underwater robotics market will be around $ 7 billion by 2025. Therefore, many engineering companies, well-known and not so, enthusiastically took up the development of deep-sea drones and robots.

The Norwegian company Eelume Subsea Intervention is improving its six-meter robot. Its serpentine design allows it to work in confined spaces, the robot is capable of fixed hovering and maneuvering even in strong ocean currents.

Eelume is a modular thrusters, or rather a combination of hinges, on a thin flexible body that consists of a variety of sensors, communication channels, cameras, lights, sonars, probe, tools for maintenance, capture and repair. It is noteworthy that all sensors and tools can be installed anywhere on the robot body.

The snake robot can be kept in the docking station at a depth of 500 meters and not returned to the surface for six months. At the same time, recharging with a return to the station will become necessary only after 20 km.

A U-shaped rig is installed at both ends of the robot snake. It is due to the configuration of the double lever that it is possible to fix one part of the device at the moment when the opposite one is busy with operational work (repair, video recording, data transfer).

With a series of sensors, this technology enables accurate checks of subsea systems, detecting and preventing faults.

The Eelume robot is currently being tested for permanent underwater service to customer companies, exploring the possibility of docking using acoustics, visual markers and machine vision, as well as using the magnetic field of an inductive connector to connect to docking plates.

The average life of a subsea system is about 25 years. Then comes the time for costly and conservative decisions. It is hoped that it will soon be possible to reduce the maintenance and repair costs of both subsea pipelines and, for example, yachting. For example, to assess the condition of the ship’s hull.

Technologies for the development of underwater robotics are aimed at changing the paradigm of underwater inspection. The use of drones and supporting infrastructures of the latest generation will significantly reduce the cost of renting expensive vessels to transport equipment.

Norwegian oil company Equinor was one of the first investors in Eelume, which said it plans to present tested samples of its first robotic snakes next year and hopes to have 50 of them in oceans around the world by 2027.

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