Saab Seaeye manufactures electric powered remotely operated vehicle (ROV) systems for a wide range of professional applications. The range currently extends from the portable and versatile Seaeye Falcon to the revolutionary electric work class Seaeye Jaguar.
The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Swedish Saab Underwater Systems. Saab Seaeye was formed in 1986 by Ian and Janet Blamire to specialise in the manufacture of electrically powered ROVs, for the offshore oil and gas industry.
In an interview with Subsea World News, Jon Robertson, managing director of Saab Seaeye, told us more about the company and its future plans.
Could you introduce yourself to our readers, and tell us a little bit more about your career at Saab Seaeye and what led you to developing remotely operated vehicles (ROVs)?
I joined Seaeye in 1998, just after university, and since then I have been on a fantastic journey as the company has grown to become the world’s largest manufacturer of electric underwater robotic systems – and leader in pioneering technology that has helped shape the industry.
Starting out in technology I moved through mechanical engineering, systems engineering and project management departments, becoming engineering manager, then engineering director before my appointment as managing director in 2012.
Being a technology led company I have retained my role as engineering director alongside my responsibilities as MD.
What class of ROVs do you manufacture, and what is, in your opinion, the biggest achievement the company has made in its history of developing these, what we like to call, underwater robots?
Our humble beginnings 30 years ago had the advantage of placing us close to our customers from where we could understand and appreciate the harsh and demanding world in which they worked.
Over the years, by continuing to work closely with our customers and build strong partnerships, we have built a reputation of trust and reliability throughout the industry.
We have led the evolution in electric underwater robotics and have created a wide range of vehicles capable of a variety of tasks, each able to host a vast array of tools and sensors, making them fully customisable to suit the requirements of any sector.
We have evolved innovative solutions for our customers, from powerful and versatile vehicles, to small and manoeuvrable systems. We are now developing both work and inspection solutions that will ultimately not need a tether.
Our proudest achievement is building our worldwide reputation for trust and reliability and creating pioneering solutions that continue to advance and change the industry.
Is the offshore oil and gas industry still your main target, and what other markets are you aiming at?
The oil and gas industry remains an incredibly important part of our business and is a sector in which we are the largest supplier of electric systems. We also operate across a number of other sectors, including renewables, hydro engineering, aquaculture, marine science and defence.
As a follow-up to our previous question, have you experienced any significant drops in orders, considering O&G industry slowdown, and would you consider shifting your focus to renewables in the future?
We sell more systems across all market sectors than anyone else, so we are less vulnerable to market shifts in any one sector.
Indeed, we are finding a growing interest in our systems in the oil and gas industry as cost pressures increasingly turn operators towards us in their search for technology that will do more for less.
A good case in point is our Leopard. As the most powerful electric system of its class in the world, its power and iCON intelligent systems architecture means it is often chosen over much more expensive hydraulic systems for the same tasks. For instance, when compared to a 66 ton hydraulic equivalent, the Leopard’s 25 ton complete package offers considerable savings, including a much smaller footprint, faster mobilisation, lower maintenance costs and the need for fewer staff.
The most important point is that advances in electric underwater robotic technology means more can be done than ever before, and the pace and scope of developments are continually increasing and enabling operators to extend their capabilities at a lower cost.
Your recent delivery of the Leopard system to ROVOP’s base in Houston marks your entry in the Gulf of Mexico work-class ROV market, is that the region you see the most potential right now?
We see strong potential in all markets throughout North and South America.
In terms of the Gulf, cost pressures are driving the search for cost saving solutions with operators looking to remove vessels from the field.
As electric vehicles are able to do many of the tasks undertaken by hydraulic vehicles and bring savings in terms of size by operating from platforms and smaller vessels to great cost advantage.
Our goal is to eventually create electric vehicles that can perform all tasks currently undertaken by hydraulic vehicles.
Which of your ROVs is the most popular among customers, and what’s the story behind their names?
Our most popular vehicle worldwide is our smallest. Called the Falcon, its success comes from having packed five powerful thrusters and an intelligent distributed control system into a metre long package that has incredible power and maneuverability and can undertake a vast number of tasks with unprecedented reliability – and it master strong cross currents.
Customers often quote success stories, ranging from their Falcon working 1000 hours virtually non-stop, filming deep under Antarctic ice and carrying its own weight in bolt-on equipment.
At the other end of the scale, the hugely powerful and newly launched Leopard is becoming our fasted growing new product. As indicated before, it features some of the most advanced technologies ever employed in an electric underwater robotic system, and is certainly the most powerful for its size.
What are the benefits to your training courses and do you offer them only to your customers?
Most of our courses come in conjunction with system deliveries. However, courses have been extended to meet a growing demand from users seeking a blend of theory and hands-on experience designed to leave them feeling confident and comfortable whilst operating our systems.
Last year we saw The Leopard at Offshore Energy exhibition in Amsterdam, what can we expect from Saab Seaeye this year?
Soon we will be announcing the launch of a new leading-edge version of one of our highly successful systems that will further advance technology in the industry.
Other announcements will include advances in our hosted and resident systems – a technology in which we already lead the way after seven years of development. We are also continuing to invest in a range of electric tooling. And of particular importance is a coming announcement that we will be introducing further enhancements to our successful iCON intelligent systems architecture.