Geological survey company Fugro has announced a partnership with technology company Sea-Kit International to develop drone ships for inspection vessel deployment.

The companies plan to make a range of unmanned marine vehicles for inspecting marine assets. In a statement, Fugro said the companies would work on uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) with the ability to deploy remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

The planned USVs will support inspections or gathering hydrographic data.

Fugro will operate the drone vessels from one of seven onshore operating centres. It says it will be the first company to carry out inspections in this manner. It also claims the USVs will consume 95% less fuel than traditional vessels.

The company plans to launch the first USVs before the end of 2020 and launch a larger model next year.

Fugro CEO Mark Heine said: “We are excited to be partnering with Sea-Kit International to develop a range of USVs that will transform the marine industry.”

Sea-Kit managing director Ben Simpson added: “We’re delighted to announce our partnership with Fugro, which will combine our design and build expertise with Fugro’s track record in the marine inspection market. Together we can push for better sustainability in the marine industry and lead the way for others to follow.”

The announcement follows Ocean Infinity setting up its own autonomous vessel subsidiary, Armada.