A LEADING subsea engineering firm has invested in a specialist underwater craft as it looks to continue its expansion.

Modus Seabed Intervention, based in Darlington, already works with unmanned water vehicles, and has now received its first autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

The company, who earlier this year bought an advanced remotely-operated vehicle from Queen's Award winning Soil Machine Dynamics, of Wallsend, near Newcastle, wants to set up a fleet of independent underwater units to survey and inspect offshore energy projects.

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The new division will complement Modus' existing subsea operations and enhance its services in the global oil and gas, renewable energy and telecommunications markets.

It is led by the Royal Navy’s recognised AUV authority, Richard Hill, a former senior mine warfare officer and officer in command fleet unmanned underwater vehicles.

The company, which employs about 40 workers, has also appointed ex-Royal Navy AUV operator, Bernard Carroll, and former Kongsberg AUV technician, Rob Cowdrey, to its ranks.

Jake Tompkins, Modus' managing director, said: “The requirements of the offshore industries demand innovative, technology-led solutions.

“Modus applies focused solutions to meet the challenges of offshore developments and the AUV capability will play a major part in the support we can offer to the industry.

“The combination of expertise that Richard and his team bring to our AUV division and Modus’ extensive offshore track-record will ensure that this technology will be an effective addition to our services and we look forward to demonstrating its capabilities to the offshore industry.”

Last year, Modus secured a major deal to dig trenches for the cables linking the Teesside wind farm, which stands 1.5km off the coast of Redcar, to the mainland.

The contract, with EDF Energy Renewables, saw Modus' 16-strong team carry out work from its base on the banks of the River Tees.

EDF last week confirmed that 22 of its 27 turbines were now producing power, with the remaining five expected to start generating electricity later this month.