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This Drone Will Spend a Year at Sea Inspecting Oil and Gas Equipment

The FlatFish, a Brazilian and German sub being refined in Italy, aims for a lengthy test run this year.
The FlatFish’s developers say the undersea drone will be able to inspect oil and gas platforms in waters as deep as 10,000 feet for as long as a year.

The FlatFish’s developers say the undersea drone will be able to inspect oil and gas platforms in waters as deep as 10,000 feet for as long as a year.

Source: Royal Dutch Shell Plc

Operating in deep-sea waters with intense pressure and plentiful debris remains a costly challenge for the oil and gas industry—one with potential consequences for the rest of us, who have to live with the aftermath of a spill. Keeping platform equipment running and working properly in these environments is a constant battle, requiring regular inspections that can last as long as four months. In Brazil and Italy, scientists have designed a solution: the FlatFish, a 12-foot-long, 3-ton autonomous sub powered by batteries and artificial intelligence.

The FlatFish contains a ton of buoyancy foam and is propelled by six thrusters. It’s designed to function in waters as deep as 10,000 feet for as long as a year and packed with gear that can withstand the attendant pressure, including laser-line projectors, sonars, and cameras that collect high-definition 3D images, helping it detect and evade underwater debris.