Telstra and Dutch multinational Fugro have opened a remote operations centre in Gnangara, which the partners hope could be used to service industries beyond oil and gas.
The facility is at the Perth International Telecommunications Centre, which links local internet and phone users to the rest of the world via satellite and has previously provided support to the European Space Agency.
The operations centre will control Fugro’s subsea robotics equipment, used in offshore oil and gas repair and maintenance missions for Woodside Petroleum, from Perth.
Due to the proximity to the telecommunications centre, the equipment will be operated in real-time.
ASX-listed Telstra and Netherlands-based contractor Fugro will be pitching to offer remote operations as a service through the centre, enabling businesses in other industries to contract-out operations.
Mining, agriculture and potentially the space industry would be the top targets.
In Perth today to launch the facility, Telstra chief executive Andy Penn said the centre would transform automation and robotics.
"One of the problems with trying to operate things remotely is latency and managing the distances, so we've been working here through our satellite base station to provide improved latency... in conjunction with Fugro’s technology in artificial intelligence, to remove that latency,” Mr Penn said.
“Once you can grasp what can be done with underwater submersibles, that can also apply to other applications.
“We are working in collaboration with Fugro to make this technology available to any operations that would benefit from remote monitoring, whether it be subsea or terrestrial.
“There is real potential for the platform to change the way businesses operate."
Fugro general manager Sam Forbes said the centre had been planned since 2015.
“At the time we encountered a number of technical hurdles that challenged our vision,” he said.
“We were told by the broader community it couldn’t be done.
“Prior to the ROC we controlled our subsea robots with a team on-board a vessel at sea, a very challenging and harsh environment that presented many barriers to transformation.
“Together ... we’ve created what we believe is the first of its kind in the world – a real-time robotic command and control centre that operates over satellite communications and is focused on subsea operations.”
It adds to Western Australia’s strong prowess in remote operations.
BHP opened its CBD-based remote operations centre in 2013, while Rio Tinto’s facility is at Perth Airport and has been open nearly a decade.
Roy Hill operates its own centre at Perth Airport, while Pinjarra-based Murray Engineering remotely operates equipment as far away as Canada.
"That means you can go anywhere you like, it's not a static location.
“The jobs that are here in the comfort of suburban Perth, (were) previously operated off the back of a boat off the north west.
“You can attract a much more diverse workforce."