Mississippi Governor Highlights Oceangoing Drone as One Tech from BP Spill Money

The drone was created in the National Oceans and Applications Research Center, which aims to capitalize on the "space to sea floor environmental technologies" the state has to restore the state's coastal natural resources in the wake of the BP oil spill.

by Paul Hampton, The Sun Herald / December 18, 2014
Gov. Phil Bryant, Mississippi Flickr/USDA

(TNS) -- Gov. Phil Bryant brought a singular oceangoing drone to the Coast on Wednesday for a demonstration of the research and development sparked by the state in the wake of the BP oil spill.

"This is a unique, one-of-a-kind, first-in-this-country, autonomous maritime vessel," said David Brannon, general manager of the National Oceans and Applications Research Center, a nonprofit research and development firm at Stennis Space Center. "It is a collaboration by C&C Technologies and ASV Ltd. of Great Britain and I would like to introduce the chief executive officer of C&C Technologies, Mr. Thomas Chance. He won't tell you this but I will. He's the innovator and the technical genius behind this particular design we'll see today."

That design was the C-Worker 6, which ASV describes as an unmanned oil and gas workboat.

According to its website, C&C Technologies "provides a wide range of surveying and mapping services for the land and offshore oil and gas industry, the telecommunications industry, and government organizations."

Brannon said when Bryant "envisioned NOARC," his idea was to capitalize on the "space to sea floor environmental technologies" the state has to restore the state's coastal natural resources in the wake of the BP oil spill.

"As you do that," Brannon said Bryant told them, "you'll generate new technologies and applications. And we want to extend those technologies into new market areas, specifically capitalizing on emerging and evolving and increasing blue economies in the Gulf of Mexico -- specifically marine engineering services for oil and gas operations."

He said the C-Worker 6 configuration they were showing would be doing offshore surveying for the Department of Marine Resources in the spring under the RESTORE Act, the federal law governing spending settlement money from BP, and as part of the day-to-day operations of the DMR.

Bryant said Mississippi has very little invested in the development of the C-Worker, but he hopes to have them manufactured in Mississippi.

"As we first began to look at RESTORE and what we would do with the money that would come in, we wanted to make it transformational," he said.

Bryant said that means not only restoring the Sound, coastline and estuaries but also a "commercial restoration."

"A commercial renaissance, if you will," he said. "So NOARC was invented for things such as this to make sure we have the blue economy moving with technology in advanced application and testing systems."

Bryant said the C-Worker could be used across the ocean to deliver goods and services.

"We'd love to manufacture those service vehicles here in Mississippi," he said. "We haven't spent a great deal (on the project) because we have had people come to us and say we'd like to show you the applications we have on surface vehicles and (unmanned aerial vehicles). Mississippi State's Research Center of Excellence has put some funding into it, but we're still at the point of doing the review of the applications before we invest."

©2014 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.)