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.