A Norwegian technology company has developed a low-cost underwater drone, that allows hull inspections without the need for divers or expensive ROVs (remotely operated vehicles). The drone is equipped with thrusters, in order to operate in heavy currents and dive to 150 metres water depth.
The Blueye Pioneer underwater drone, by Trondheim-based Blueye Robotics, transmits a live video via a thin umbilical cable to the surface and thereafter wirelessly to the user, who may either be located onboard a vessel or onshore. The drone is compact and weighs seven kilos.
Normally, inspections below the waterline are carried out by divers or ROVs. Using divers represents significant HSE risks, while ROVs have traditionally been very costly and required extensive training.
Vessel hulls regularly require both ad-hoc and periodic inspections during transit and when entering ports. For example to check the vessel´s structural integrity, inlets and discharge valves, rudder, propeller, coating levels and possible corrosion. Eyes under the waterline are also required to check the hull for explosives and smuggling of contraband.
“By providing vessel owners and their crew with easy and cost-efficient access to what is below the waterline, we also give them the opportunity to address potential hull issues before they become a problem. Combined with lower than usual capex, we believe this drone can make hull inspections more frequent and less problematic,” Erik Dyrkoren, CEO of Blueye Robotics.