A piston corer is a long, heavy tube plunged into the seafloor to extract samples of soft sediment.  Analysis of these samples provides vital information for developers who want to build installations out at sea, such as wind turbines, oil and gas pipelines, or undersea cables.

Rob Ferris, Managing Director of Falmouth-based Feritech Global, said: “The new auto-drop piston corer technology represents a step change in precision and efficiency. We estimate that this new product will enable seabed samples to be collected up to ten times faster than with traditional piston corers.”

The new bespoke system has been developed for Oceaneering with their project team involved in its development, providing feedback at each stage.

The new system includes a range of innovative features. Using sophisticated software, the auto-drop piston corer can be programmed, lowered to pre-set sea depth and then automatically released. This provides much greater precision and faster speeds than traditional piston corers, which are launched manually by a trigger mechanism. As well as improving efficiency, this system also enhances operator safety.

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In addition, the Launch and Recovery System (LARS) and the winch can be operated remotely, through a control panel which is integrated into a lightweight wearable pack. This allows the operator to carry the control panel on the front of his body, making it portable and flexible. As a result, piston corer operations can be carried out safely by only one person, whereas previously at least two staff would have been needed to operate all the equipment required.

The upgraded LARS system also includes a new, strengthened barrier rail, which can withstand pressures of up to 2 tons.

Brandon Wacasey, Project Management Lead for Survey and Geotechnical Operations at Oceaneering says: “We are delighted with the outcome of this pioneering development project. This innovative new system will help increase the safety and efficiency of our subsea survey operations and help us continue to build our Geoscience market position.”

Oceaneering intends to deploy the new auto-drop piston corer in the international market.

Rob Ferris adds: “At its best, innovation is driven by really listening to users and using smart user insights to invent new solutions to challenges. This flagship project is a great example of that. We are very excited to see the new system deployed in 2024 and look forward to continuing to work closely with Oceaneering, as we continue to push at the frontiers of subsea geotechnical survey technology.”