Schlumberger Ltd. and Liquid Robotics Inc. have partnered to develop services for the oil and natural gas industry using the world's first wave-powered autonomous marine vehicles capable of being deployed in the offshore for up to a year without a crew, fuel or a dedicated support vessel.

The joint venture, Liquid Robotics Oil & Gas, combines Liquids Robotics' proprietary unmanned marine vehicle (UMV), the Wave Glider, with Schlumberger's oil and gas expertise, which would open the technology to integration by oil and gas operators worldwide.

"We are continually interested in developing innovative technologies of value to the oil and gas industry," said Schlumberger Chief Technology Officer Ashok Belani. "We are extremely excited about the new capabilities the unique Wave Glider platform will bring to offshore exploration and production -- particularly in the areas of seismic, subsea and environmental monitoring."

Liquid Robotics, which has received financial backing from VantagePoint Capital Partners, would provide the Wave Gliders and relevant engineering, piloting and maintenance expertise. Schlumberger would add upstream technology and market leadership. The joint venture would be the exclusive distributor of Wave Glider products and services.

The Wave Glider technology was conceived in Sunnyvale, CA, as an unmoored, station-keeping data buoy to monitor humpback whales. Liquid Robotics was incorporated in 2007 and the niche UMV technology became its flagship product.

Since first delivering its products to customers in 2008 the UMVs have logged "well over" 100,000 miles of operations, according to Liquid Robotics. "By continuously harvesting energy from the environment, Wave Gliders are able to travel long distances, hold station and monitor vast areas without ever needing to refuel."

The surfboard-sized UMVs weigh about 250 pounds. Each one is packed with cellphone flash storage, a dual-core processor that runs open Linex software, a battery pack, sensor arrays, a global positioning system, as well as wireless and satellite communications systems that send data to cloud servers.

The two-part architecture and wing system converts wave motion into thrust, and solar panels provide electricity for sensor payloads. Wave Gliders are able to travel to distant areas, collect data and return for maintenance without requiring a ship to leave port, according to Liquid Robots.

Under the joint venture, Schlumberger and Liquid Robotics would share equally in the partnership.

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