To describe Saipem’s in-development Hydrone technology, Paolo Bonel starts with a declaration meant to clear up any misconceptions.

“This is not an AUV,” says Bonel, manager of remote control systems in Saipem’s Sonsub division, using the common abbreviation for autonomous underwater vehicle.

It is, rather, more an autonomous remotely operated vehicle (ROV), sometimes tethered, sometimes free-swimming, capable of the usual subsea inspection tasks but also able to perform autonomous light intervention as necessary.

“What we’re doing with the Hydrone is moving the brain on board the ROV — not only the eyes and hands, but also the brain,” he says.