ROME — Italian shipyard Fincantieri has signed another cooperation deal on subsea technology as it pushes into the growing market for underwater drones and cable and pipeline protection.

The firm signed a memorandum of understanding with Italian energy firm Saipem to develop ways to integrate Saipem’s autonomous underwater vehicles with Fincantieri’s ships and submarines.

“The agreement aims to enable the two companies to participate in major programmes in the Italian and international markets in the area of surveillance and control of critical underwater infrastructure and rescue activities,” Fincantieri said in a statement.

Interest in how to protect undersea energy pipelines and telecommunications cables was triggered in 2022 by the Nordstream pipeline attack in the Baltic Sea and boosted by recent reports of cable failures in the Red Sea amid Houthi attacks on shipping.

To date, the oil and gas industry has moved faster than the defense sector when it comes to undersea infrastructure maintenance and monitoring.

Saipem claims it is the first company in the world to sell an autonomous undersea drone that can operate at 3,000 meters depth.

The firm’s Hydrone-R drone can remain underwater for 12 months using docking stations linked to the surface for recharging and relaying data.

Last year, the firm briefed military officials on the technology at a meeting hosted by the Italian Navy as it scouted technologies to include in a joint EU seabed security program it is heading up.

The pact between Saipem and Fincantieri was signed on Tuesday at the Rome headquarters of the Italian Navy.

The deal was the latest in a series of agreements in the sector signed by Fincantieri.

Last year the company teamed with Italy’s Leonardo to work on undersea drone technology, as well as with companies Remazel and W-Sense.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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