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OceanTech - Trondheim’s best kept secret

Could OceanTech Innovation AS be Trondheim’s best kept secret?

Behind the thick walls of Dora II at Nyhavna, remote controlled technology is being developed to carry out the most difficult underwater operations. Dora II was constructed by the Germans during the Second World War and was intended to serve as an important part of their maintenance of submarines and warships. This facility has a 120 metre-long drydock which is currently filled with water for testing new technology.

OceanTech uses this facility to develop its robots and train its pilots in advanced operations. OceanTech has developed completely unique technology and is a global leaders within its field.

“Our robots assist oil companies and fish farming companies with the tasks they are otherwise unable to perform themselves,” says Managing Director Bernt Schjetne.

Center of technology

Located in the centre of Trondheim and within walking distance of Solsiden (the sunny side), the company is well-placed to attract the best minds.

“Access to expertise from groups affiliated with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is important, and we find that we receive good applicants for the positions we advertise,” Schjetne says.

“Obviously, we also need interesting assignments to work on, and this is probably one of the keys to the success that OceanTech is experiencing. Our customers turn their problems over to us and we often have to develop completely new robots to solve them. The solution needs to be found quickly and has to work as intended when we take it offshore.”

“We therefore build prototypes that will function in the toughest environments with waves and currents in the offshore splash zone,” says Senior Project Manager Geir Ingar Bjørnsen.

Bjørnsen emphasises that there is a long list of both technical and practical challenges for the engineers whose job it is to solve these problems.

“We need the best minds for design and calculations, as well as people with practical experience from underwater operations and complex rigging. OceanTech is responsible for all phases of the projects, and both masters of science and apprentices are given plenty of opportunities to work offshore while work is underway.”

Robotic future

OceanTech has now built up an impressive “fleet” of various robots that can be used for work in the splash zone, and the company is experiencing an increase in the reuse of robots. However, upgrades with the latest technology are required, and the engineers also have important tasks associated with this. New technology also makes it possible to achieve a higher degree of autonomous functioning.

“We are witnessing a very exciting time with the robotisation of many new tasks in society and this is still just the starting phase. In recent times we have employed not only masters of science in cybernetics and robotics, but also automation apprentices and ROV (remotely operated vehicle) pilots. We also hire in a lot of expertise and have a close partnership with SINTEF. Together we have a 3-year research project to develop new robot technology and new non-destructive testing (NDT) methods,” Bjørnsen says.

Technology developed for the entire splash zone

“Customers within the oil and gas sector have been the most important thss far. However, we are now seeing an increase within aquaculture. Our technology, which is largely developed for oil installations, can easily be repurposed for aquaculture, which is now taking place in areas that are more exposed to weather conditions,” Schjetne says.

These installations will have the same challenges as the oil and gas installations, and the aquaculture sector actually has a much greater need for cleaning and inspection than the oil platforms, because they are more exposed to wear and tear, for example, on the fish pen nets.

“Maintenance in the open sea can be expensive if this is not well-planned in advance. This is where OceanTech’s expertise comes into its own and we now assist many fish farming companies during the early design phase in developing robots for aquaculture,” Schjetne concludes.

Bernt Schjetne
Managing Director

Geir Ingar Bjørnsen
Senior Project Manager