Global oil & gas company Petrus has announced a cooperation agreement with aerospace and underwater robotics company the ECA Group. The partnership will bring together the vast industrial knowledge of Petrus with the technical expertise of ECA to begin offering state of the art underwater inspection and survey capabilities to the Oil & Gas sector using the A18D Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). The agreement is the largest of its type ever signed by ECA and is the result of several years of research and technological development that the French robotics firm has been conducting in the industry.
The ECA Group designed the A18D AUV to dive to depths as far down as 3000m where it could be programmed to work autonomously for up to 24 hours. Primarily working to carry out inspection missions or to survey and 3D map an area, the A18D can be fitted with a wide variety of sensors, making it extremely adaptable and versatile for a wide range of uses. It can be configured to determine the seabed conditions before beginning construction on large underwater structures, deployed to inspect underwater pipelines or cables, search for wildlife or even document archaeological sites. The A18D is also used by naval forces in search and rescue operations.
The A18D mid-size Autonomous Underwater Vehicle is primarily used for deep water applications, specializing in gathering highly accurate 3D survey and scanning data. They can be deployed using airplanes or on-site support ships, and retrieved using standard automatic underwater recovery support vessels. The drone can rage in length from 4.5 meters to 5.5 meters and weigh as much as 690 kilograms. Beyond 3D mapping the A18D can also be equipped with Synthetic Aperture Sonar, as well as a variety of sensors or Sub Bottom Profiling (SBP) systems.
Major advancements in robotics, 3D scanning and drone technology are beginning to make underwater drones much more desirable in undersea operations. While UAVs and other airborne drones and aircraft have been used extensively throughout the Oil & Gas industry to inspect and survey potential drill locations or in use sites for decades on land, the use of autonomous underwater drones is just starting to take off. Not only do drones offer higher-quality data, but they significantly reduce operations cost when compared with traditional industry practices that require larger vessels, more manpower and longer missions. Drones also reduce the risk posed to diving personnel and other underwater operations.
As part of their contract with Petrus, the ECA Group will be leasing several AUVs to them while also providing on-site operational support. For their part, Petrus will primarily be carrying out the mission preparation and data processing side of the scheme. The partnership includes a cumulative turnover of €6 million over a four-year period, with the possibility of increased rates with increased drone usage. Petrus can also commission more A18D AUVs as needed, including other underwater robots in the ECA Group line of products. This includes the A9 portable AUVs (A9-S or A9-E) or the cleaning and inspection ROVING BAT ROVs.
Here is a promotional video from ECA Group detailing the wide variety of uses and applications for the A18D AUV:
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