A relatively new technology outside of military applications is low logistics autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV). These vehicles can be programmed with a mission, deployed from a vessel or directly from shore, execute their mission and return with a variety of different data. Using a suite of sensors these vehicles provide a quiet and stable platform for the acquisition of high-resolution data. This paper covers the capabilities of the systems and presents some applications and advantages to the user, as well as some data from projects performed to date. This includes rig site surveys, some of which are in restrictive locations, route surveys and general offshore subsea surveys.

1. Introduction

Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) have been operating in the upstream oil and gas sector for well over 10 years. In 1995 Kongsberg started the HUGIN project with the first commercial survey being performed in 1997 for Statoil's Aasgaard pipeline route. Since then, the HUGINs have built an impressive track record of performing large area survey very effectively, often in deep water and generally operated from dedicated, specialised vessels. There is no doubting the benefits of these vehicles for large surveys, especially in the deep waters of oil and gas exploration, however, there is a developing need for smaller surveys in relatively shallow water. The manufacturers of some smaller vehicles have realised the benefits of their vehicles, which have primarily serviced military applications (e.g. mine counter measures (MCM)). Similarly, the end clients, the oil and gas operators, have seen the benefits of using these smaller vehicles for some of their survey requirements. These smaller vehicles - often referred to now as low logistics, lightweight, compact or mini AUVs - are now being used more often especially by a few key end clients who have realised their benefits.

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