Saipem has won a key contract from Shell and Petrobras for deploying its FlatFish subsea drone in two pilot projects involving inspection of two ultra-deepwater fields offshore Brazil.

The Italian engineering and construction giant described the two projects as falling within the framework of the research and development programme of ANP, the Brazilian National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels.

Flatfish has been developed with Shell under a Brazilian initiative dedicating a small percentage of royalties from the pre-salt fields to research and development.

“The target is to qualify the drone to execute unmanned, vessel-free inspections to support the monitoring and maintenance of subsea infrastructures,” Saipem said.

Saipem has taken FlatFish through the industrialisation phase with the ultimate objective of unlocking deep-water operations, in more than 2000 metres of water depth.

The drone will be enhancing the field’s artificial intelligence-based features as well as its navigation and monitoring capabilities, Saipem added.

The activities will be led by Sonsub — Saipem’s underwater technologies and robotics arm, over about a year, the company said.

“During the first phase, intermediate tests in shallow water will be executed at Saipem’s base in Trieste, Italy, with the support of Sonsub’s engineering department in Brazil,” the company noted.

In the second phase, FlatFish will be deployed within Brazilian waters in the third quarter of next year.

Saipem said the contract award confirms its drive for technological development in subsea robotics and advanced automation.

The company first deployed a wireless subsea drone for Norwegian operator Equinor at the Njord field in the North Sea in 2019.

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