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Forum Energy Technologies, an oilfield products company, developed remote piloting capability for underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs)

Forums test pool at Kirkbymoorside YorkshireThe Onshore Control Module provides power and data connections to a local hub. (Image source: Forum Energy Technologies)

Forum demonstrated the ability to remotely operate Workclass and Observation Class (Perry and Sub-Atlantic) ROV systems between an offshore vessel and a remote location.

This new capability brings major opportunities in response to the latest industry drives to adapt operational practices as cost savings, and reductions in HSE risks can be realised by reducing the sizes of offshore crew members.

Forum 2010 proved the concept of remote piloting when the company successfully operated its TXLX Workclass ROV in its test pool at Kirkbymoorside, UK from a TXLX Console in Florida, the USA.

Camera and light controls, on/off manifold power, depth and gyro power, pan and tilt controls, manipulator controls, ROV thruster controls, auto heading controls showed remote control capabilities. At that time, Internet speeds were much slower than they are today, resulting in high latency telemetry, which was not countered by the control system software.

However, continued software efficiency development that reduces the network latency effect coupled with increased availability and reliability of the global 4G network has now enabled Forum to offer remote operations across its full range of ROV systems.

The ICE and subCAN remote operation suites from Forum provide a robust means of piloting vessels or platform-based systems from an onshore control facility through a wired, 4G or satellite connection.

The onshore hardware replicates the offshore HMI hardware and GUI so operators will be familiar with the controls immediately. The Onshore Control Module provides power and data connections to a local hub.

Existing hardware for offshore control stations may be upgraded to allow remote control and monitoring of power systems. The Offshore Control Module interfaces with the upgraded hardware which provides control and monitoring through the existing network of ICE/subCAN. A key-switch, together with the software, ensures secure hand-over control between offshore and onshore stations.

The ICE and subCAN control software applies enhanced position control when a compatible DVL and gyro are fitted to the ROV.

The system upgrade components are manufactured from Forum's UK plant in Kirkbymoorside, Yorkshire and delivered there.