Blue Ocean Seismic Services (Boss) is developing autonomous vehicles capable of carrying out geological surveys on the seafloor.
Their findings are beamed back up to a surface vessel and can be used to identify unexploited oil and gasfields, locations for offshore wind farms, and chambers with the potential for storing waste carbon dioxide underground.
The company today reported data returned from the North Sea trials was comparable in detail to that obtained from existing technology but says using the swarms of submarine-like drones will make such surveys faster, safer, cleaner and 50% cheaper than traditional techniques.
At present, marine seismic data acquisition remains heavily dependent on technology developed more than 50 years ago with streamer cables towed on a boat.
Boss’s autonomous vehicles go off the side of the boat and navigate down to the seabed and where they can stay for almost three months, moving from place to place under water, before returning to the surface to be recharged.
Farnborough-based Boss is now expanding the trials to other locations in preparation for pre-commercial sea trials next year.
CEO Simon Illingworth said the successful sea trials were a “crucial milestone”.
He said: “We know now that our autonomous vehicles can withstand extremely challenging environments and continue to gather high quality data.
“We continue to have strong, broad industry interest in our technology and these results unlock the next phase of our development.”
Woodside Energy, Australia’s biggest oil and gas company, and bp ventures - a green tech investor set up by FTSE 100 giant BP - were among backers in its £10million Series A funding round.