Remote operations are on the rise across the offshore industry, in a bid to drive efficiencies, de-risk projects, decrease carbon emissions and ultimately reduce costs.
For survey projects specifically, having a fully autonomous vessel - such as an unmanned surface vessel (USV) - or lean crew vessel will eliminate or significantly reduce the people required to run the operation, saving both operating and environmental costs. However by taking humans out of the equation, challenges can arise and selecting the right equipment for the job becomes of paramount importance.
Rob Williamson, Group Research & Development Manager at STR, delves into the world of remote operations and autonomous technology, introducing STR’s range of electric winches and showcasing how they’ve been designed to enhance and guarantee the success of remote subsea surveys.
Key equipment considerations for remote operations:
“Human beings are great problem solvers - they can intervene if something goes wrong, and use their experience and intelligence to help and enhance a project. With remote vessels, this can’t happen in the same way - when equipment malfunctions, there are no engineers onboard to repair it.
“This is why project teams need to focus on selecting robust equipment that is suitable and able to be controlled remotely. The key factors to consider during the selection process are the design of the apparatus, size and shape, level of automation and intelligence, reliability and power efficiency.”
The important role of the winch:
“A winch enables the entire survey project. When a sensor is deployed underwater, it’s the winch that must deploy and recover the cable reliably and neatly, and this can be quite a challenge, as the cable can get contaminated with debris or fishing nets, it may not wrap neatly back onto the winch, or it may break. It is also an integral part of the vessel’s safety system.
“For remote operations, more responsibility is placed on the winch to look after itself - it ultimately has to have more intelligence and be highly reliable.
“At STR, we have designed our fleet of electric winches to not only tick the remote operations boxes, but go far beyond them. Without human support, they ensure everything is working correctly, can stop and make themselves safe or fix issues, and ultimately report advanced performance statistics.”
5 features of STR’s electric winches that enhance remote operations:
“Reliability is at the heart of our winch design. We’ve selected the highest quality parts, and mechanically everything is extremely strong - and the performance we’ve seen over the past 20+ years demonstrates our dedication to delivering a robust product.
“As we design and manufacture our own products in-house at STR, our electric winches benefit from rigorous testing, servicing and maintenance, as well as continuous optimisation from a design perspective - as we take learnings from the field, and enhance our winch design accordingly to enable our customers to get the most value.”
2. Power efficiency
“The STR electric winches have a custom-designed control system to maximise performance and efficiency, while managing operating performance. We’re able to extract the maximum power efficiency out of every single component, ensuring this is balanced with high levels of performance and reliability. For example, the SeaTow winches typically offer 50% power saving compared to traditional electro-hydraulic winches.”
3. Remote interfacing software
“We have spent a significant amount of time designing and developing our winch remote interfacing software, and this is a huge differentiator for STR compared to competing products in the market.
“Our electronic control system is a complete custom design, developed in-house, and it not only increases the intelligence and capabilities of our winches, it also makes the installation and user control extremely easy for our customers. The software essentially makes the winch self-sufficient and trusted to look after itself.
“The system can fully integrate into our customers’ own software & control systems as communications using our MODBUS protocol, is well documented and supported using our example software. It’s also extremely easy to switch in another STR winch with zero calibration required - it is essentially plug-and-play.
“The features supported through this custom software include performance statistics, fault reporting, power logs, and more. It also enables high levels of remote access, with the user able to stimulate every function of the winch from anywhere in the world.”
4. Low noise operation
“Our electronically controlled winches have an extremely low electromagnetic noise level, as they’re designed specifically to maximise the length of cable and performance of the attached sensors. This allows our customers to extract the absolute best performance out of the tow cable, and do much more with a shorter cable length. For remote operations, this is ideal as it means more can be done with a smaller winch, which will take up much less space on the vessel.”
5. Compact installation footprint
“The STR winches for remote operations strike the perfect balance between performance and size. We guarantee performance will not be matched by any other winch in the market than that of STR’s SeaTow range. We believe our products offer the highest level of performance and reliability with the smallest footprint - which means you’ll achieve higher value from your remote project. We do not compromise on quality.”
If you would like to learn more about STR’s range of electric winches for your upcoming remote survey project, or speak to a member of our team, click here.