Underwater robotics start-up Hydromea to collaborate with oil giant Total

Vaud-based start-up Hydromea, which develops underwater robots, has received the endorsement of the Innovation Center for the Offshore Industry for a multi-million dollar project.

Hydromea's underwater drone
Hydromea is developing a fleet of autonomous submersible drones to study submarine environments. | Copyright Hydromea

The Offshore Industry Innovation Center (OGTC), based in Aberdeen, Scotland, has announced that it is supporting Hydromea, an EPFL spin-off, on a six-year, multi-million Swiss franc project comprising four phases. The research project will begin in 2021.

Hydromea’s core expertise lies in underwater robotics, through-water wireless communication networks and underwater navigation. Based in Lausanne in the canton of Vaud, Hydromea’s latest creation is a miniature optical modem, dubbed LUMA, which can operate down to 6,000 meters below the ocean’s surface.

"Our technology is a bit like an autonomous car. From the first phase, the drone will be able to move, and then we will add assistance functionalities thanks to the AI and computer vision that we are developing," explains Igor Martin, CEO of Hydromea.

One more step towards carbon neutrality for oil giants

The start-up will receive the expertise of the English subsidiary of French oil company Total in the first phase of the project, a partnership made possible in the context of the energy transition operated by the offshore industry.

"Total, along with other oil giants, is interested in our drone to meet their carbon neutrality objectives. And those who produce renewable energy don't want to waste it on inspection tasks," explains Igor Martin. "While the costs of offshore inspection are affordable for oil companies, the offshore wind industry needs more cost-effective alternatives," says the CEO.

With the start of the project, Hydromea is targeting a turnover of half a million Swiss francs in 2021. The start-up, which is also raising private funds, also plans to grow to 10 employees next year and to 23 by 2022.

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