Unmanned Surface Vessel Set to Transform Subsea IMR & Offshore Survey Work

Credit: DeepOcean
Credit: DeepOcean

Subsea services company DeepOcean and the Norwegian oil and gas company Aker BP have agreed to "pioneer" the use of an unmanned surface vessel (USV) for subsea inspection, maintenance, and repair (IMR) and survey work.

The first USV is planned to be ready for offshore operations from 2025, when it will go on an eight-year charter agreement with DeepOcean from specialist provider USV AS.

"Aker BP and DeepOcean already cooperate under a frame agreement for subsea IMR and survey work, and Aker BP has contributed to the development of the USV. The two companies share a long-term ambition to move 30 percent of IMR work from traditional vessels to USVs," DeepOcean said.

“We have collaborated with DeepOcean for many years on development of remotely controlled subsea operations, and unmanned operations is a natural next step of this development. Our technology strategy is rooted in a desire to reduce both emissions and costs. This is an agenda that DeepOcean shares,” says Torbjørg Opedal, VP Subsea at Aker BP.

Remote control + Autonomy

According to DeepOcean, it is estimated that the USV solution can reduce CO2 emissions with more than 90 percent compared to a conventional offshore vessel when conducting subsea IMR operations.

The USV will be 24 meters long and 7.5 meters wide. It will be remotely controlled from shore, but will have many autonomous features to ensure the safety and integrity of the spread. It will be able to operate in severe weather conditions. During operations, both the USV vessel crew and ROV operators will be co-located in the same remote operating center.

The USV will be equipped with a hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system and a battery package which allows the unmanned vessel to operate offshore for up to 30 days without charging or refuelling.

To increase the USV's workable weather window, it will be equipped with a newly developed launch and recovery system which allows for work class ROVs to be operated from relatively small vessels, such as the USV.


The USV will be equipped with a work ROV that is capable of operating down to 1,500 meters in water depth, plus a sizeable tool package to perform subsea operations. The USV will be capable of handling most of all subsea inspection work, survey work, and a significant part of subsea intervention tasks, DeepOcean said.

“Once the USV is constructed, tested and ready for offshore operations, Aker BP looks forward to utilizing it on our subsea fields. It is a smart solution that enables us to deploy well-known subsea technologies, but without bringing a large vessel or an unnecessary amount of personnel offshore,” says Jarle Marius Solland, Aker BP’s operations manager – subsea execution & survey.

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