Underwater technology is to be tested in Lochaber after the signing of an agreement with a major Japanese company.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) will test its autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) at the Underwater Centre in Fort William in October.
The prototype is equipped with a robot arm for carrying out subsea pipeline inspections.
The agreement was signed in Tokyo and witnessed by External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop.
Ms Hyslop said: “Scottish Development International has worked hard behind the scenes to help secure this hugely significant agreement.
“Kawasaki also has excellent links with Edinburgh Centre for Robotics at Heriot-Watt University, which is developing the control software and multi-sensor algorithms for the AUV system to enable it to track pipes underwater.
“The Scottish Government’s Subsea Action Plan, launched in January 2017, reflects our ambitions to support this important sector, not only in international oil and gas markets but also to diversify into other sectors including renewables and deep-sea mining.”
The Underwater Centre is a subsea training and trials facility on the shore of Loch Linnhe. It boasts four dive stations, classrooms, workshops and decompression chambers plus mechanical and electrical workshops, a 330,000-gallon indoor tank and classrooms.
KHI completed a 15-day verification test for automated underwater charging station docking for its prototype AUV at the facility last November.
The company is now targeting 2020 for the commercialisation of technology that will allow inspection data to be transferred autonomously to a ship, while locating and tracking pipelines at close range, including those buried under seabed sediment.
Underwater Centre commercial director Steve Ham said: “We have built up a very good relationship over the development and delivery of the project.
“We look forward to welcoming them back to Fort William later this year and in future.”
Industry and public bodies including Oil and Gas UK, Subsea UK, Subsea 7, TechnipFMC, Premier Oil and Highlands and Islands Enterprise recently got together to rescue the Underwater Centre from closure.