Direct observation has been the preferred means of determining the location and extent of an oil spill for many years, but that is changing as unmanned units enter the market.
As in many other sectors of the marine and offshore industry, autonomous systems are set to play a growing role in oil spill response operations.
Underwater and above-water units are already being tested. Autonomous technology is advancing quickly, but there are challenges to be overcome, among them safely and accurately navigating autonomous units, communicating with them and enabling them to transmit data.
There are also many different types of autonomous unit, their size, capacity and range differ greatly and the sensors they are equipped with may not operate satisfactorily in every case. These and other issues were addressed in several presentations at Interspill 2018 in London in March.
Dr Andrew Gates from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and Sarah Hall, a response manager from Oil Spill Response Ltd (OSRL), described a joint autonomy project they have been working on making use of marine autonomous and robotic systems (MARS).
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Sarah Hall has been delivering on the same topic this week at the SPE International Conference and Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, Dubai.