October 15, 2020 – Lausanne, Switzerland – Hydromea, a Lausanne-based EPFL start-up is awarded undisclosed grant funding from Scotland-based Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) in a co-development multi-year project with Total E&P UK. The funding will accelerate the development of Hydromea underwater autonomous inspection robots, enabling onsite asset integrity inspections of submerged infrastructure.
Founded in 2014 as an EPFL spin-off, Hydromea has developed unique expertise and IP in the complex area of underwater navigation and communication next to or within complex submerged infrastructure. This enables the small team to be the first in the market of placing underwater autonomous robots into confined flooded space for inspection and monitoring.
The company, specializing in portable autonomous underwater robotics and wireless high-bandwidth underwater communications, has succeeded in securing first-phase funding in a multi-million project to reduce CO2 emissions and inspection costs in harsh offshore environments.
In the first phase of the project, the company’s wireless underwater inspection drone, world’s first of its kind, will replace a multi-person manned entry into dangerous, confined space filled with water, such as ballast water tanks on vessels, in the oil, gas and shipping industries. Removing a tether allows the drone to dive through intricate labyrinths without getting tangled. This technology will eliminate the need to enter these spaces by humans, thereby increasing the safety of the operations, while reducing cost and enabling remote inspection capability. In the follow-up phases and relying on the company’s prior experience in the multi-robot systems, the technology will enable open-sea inspection missions either from unmanned surface vehicles or from resident platforms. The market for underwater asset integrity inspections globally is estimated to grow to CHF 14 billion over the next 5 years fueled by increasing renewable energy development offshore.
Igor Martin, CEO of Hydromea, said: “We are thrilled to get an approval of funding and look forward to an exciting collaboration with Total E&P UK and the OGTC. We’ve been building a portable drone platform by developing key enabling technologies that address excruciating complexity inherently associated with the underwater environment. The subsea offshore industry knows all about it and this vote of confidence confirms our unique capabilities in this domain.”
Rebecca Allison, Asset Integrity Solution Center Manager at the OGTC, said: “Our member companies have set us a strategic objective to mitigate risks to personnel by developing and implementing innovative robotic solutions for dull, dirty and dangerous tasks. A remote inspection capability which can reduce emissions and increase safety is as relevant as ever in today’s environment. Hydromea has demonstrated that they have technology capable of delivering this vision and we are delighted to support them with the acceleration of their technology development into the oil & gas and other energy sectors.”
The company already has experience of building portable autonomous robots for 3D environmental mapping of underwater parameters. One of its robots was even deployed under the ice in an EPFL scientific project. At the same time, Hydromea is rapidly becoming an emerging leader in underwater high-bandwidth wireless communication – one of the key building blocks of the drone platform – and leads optical communication standard setting at SWiG, a subsea wireless industry group network.
Founded in 2014, Hydromea is a Swiss-based autonomous underwater robotics company delivering solutions that allow customers to have unparalleled access to subsea data and underwater assets. Ultra-fast and high-volume, real-time data transfer and harvesting bring a paradigm shift in our quest to explore the ocean and understand its impact on the subsea economy.