The Norwegian subsea inspection startup Argeo has become the first commercial customer for the Eelume, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with an unusual snake-like form.
Argeo aims to use robotics, sensors and analytics to conduct inspections without large surface vessels, reducing the carbon footprint (and the cost) of offshore operations. It plans to deploy the Kongsberg-backed Eelume as a resident on-site inspection device, capable of staying at the installation for extended periods without repeated launch and recovery.
In operation, one Eelume robot can provide a service footprint of up to about 20 square nautical miles. The flexible, slender body can fit into tight spaces, and it is designed to stay below in a "hibernating" mode when not in use.
Argeo also has two larger SeaRaptor survey AUVs on order, and it is developing an unmanned surface vessel capable of carrying and deploying underwater vehicles - much like Ocean Infinity's Armada program. It says that by using AUV technology, it should be able to cut survey time by 50 percent and cost by 60 percent compared to traditional ROV-based survey services.
“We believe that this is just the beginning of a major shift in how the industry conducts underwater operations,” says Trond Crantz, CEO of Argeo. “In addition to lowering carbon footprint and increasing efficiency, Eelume technology will enable Argeo to significantly reduce the costs related to inspection, light intervention and monitoring (IMR) of subsea assets and infrastructure. Currently, 90 percent of these costs are vessel-related. Implementing Eelume as a resident inspection tool for offshore wind and oil and gas will replace up to 70 percent of vessel activities.”
In the offshore energy sector, Eelume and Argeo see a growing demand for autonomous underwater robots, which require much less human involvement in at-sea operations. With support from Kongsberg, Eelume wants to become a leading player in this market.
“We are very pleased with this sale of our underwater snake robot to Argeo,” says Morten Bjerkholt, CEO of Eelume. “Argeo’s plan to offer inspection and mapping assignments based on autonomous submarine robots suits us perfectly and shows that our unique technology, using the snake robot as a carrier of sensory technology to carry out autonomous inspection assignments, meets a customer need."