Shallow-Water Pipeline Robot Tested

Augmented reality goggles being used to watch video footage of SWIM-R testing.

By MarEx 2017-01-23 17:01:36

Saudi Aramco’s internally developed underwater inspection robot, the Shallow Water Inspection and Monitoring Robot (SWIM-R), was recently field tested and demonstrated.

SWIM-R capabilities were validated by carrying out multiple inspection tasks on underwater pipelines. The robot successfully performed visual inspection, marine-life cleaning and ultrasonic thickness readings, as well as cathodic protection voltage measurements.

During the test, SWIM-R was effectively able to maneuver and navigate through currents as well as crawl on the seabed.

The compact, underwater robot can be easily deployed in extremely shallow waters. Saudi Aramco says that the inspection of pipelines in shallow waters has previously been problematic. Current inspection procedures are performed by divers who are connected to a support ship using an umbilical that is used for oxygen, communications and relaying a live camera video signal. However, it is particularly difficult and sometimes impossible to navigate such dive support vessels in shallow waters due to the risk of impact with the seabed or underwater obstacles. 

Therefore, alternative methods are used for shallow water pipeline inspection, including the usage of zodiacs. These methods are extremely slow compared to inspection in deeper waters. SWIM-R enables the inspection of these shallow water pipelines safely and efficiently while drastically reducing the associated time and cost of shallow-water inspections, says Saudi Aramco.

SWIM-R was designed, developed and field tested in less than two years, allowing for its deployment five months ahead of schedule.

The technology was developed by the Intelligent Systems Lab of the Oil and Gas Network Integrity Division (OGNI) in collaboration with the Underwater Inspection and Repair Unit of the Industrial Services Marine Department. The project resulted in 11 inventions, including seven that are filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.