Unmanned Autonomous Boats Look To Sail Into Energy Sector

A San Diego-based company that makes small wind- and solar-powered unmanned, underwater and surface vessels decked with sensors is looking to enter the oil and gas scene, having recently landed millions of dollars in funding from Energy Innovation Capital (EIC) and Lockheed Martin Ventures.

The move comes amid growing interest for unmanned autonomous technology in the energy sector as renewables gain attention from some of the world’s biggest energy players.

Ocean Aero’s signature autonomous vehicle is the Submaran S10, which features a retractable wing sail for submerging and solar rechargeable lithium batteries. The vehicle, weighing about 280 pounds and spanning just over 4 m (13 ft) in length, can dive up to 200 m and capture via sensors wave, weather and seismic data among other information, detect hydrocarbons and communicate with other devices, according to the company’s website.

But there’s more than being able to collect data, including from equipment housed on the seafloor, according to Ocean Aero CEO Eric Patten.