COBRA: COntinuum roBot for Remote Applications

Lead Participant: Rolls-Royce plc


"Imagine if an engineer could inspect and repair a pipe deep within a nuclear reactor without having to get changed into a HAZMAT suit, or even perform an inspection and then repair a jet engine still attached to the wing of an aircraft, but from the comfort of their own home. COBRA (Continuum Robot for Remote Applications) aims to do just that. A consortium of industrial companies and academic institutions aims to design, develop and build a novel solution for remotely controlled specialist robots that will enable maintenance & repair tasks to be undertaken in extreme environments by teleoperation without compromising the health and safety of the operators.

COBRA will reduce lifecycle costs, provide rapid worldwide operational response to issues, and improve the safety and quality of high value installed infrastructures. The continuum robot (a.k.a. snake robot), will be long enough to be deployed in a range of pipe based nuclear fission and fusion scenarios, as well as small enough in diameter to be applicable to jet engine deployment through conventional inspection ports. The main objectives of COBRA include production of a full scale teleoperated prototype, inclusive of the control software, a range of shape sensors and two separate, interchangeable and innovative 'end effectors'. Firstly, a 3D camera to provide high resolution views of the environment and feed into an immersive interface with augmented reality elements. Secondly, a miniature laser processing head to allow robotic corrective action to take place. A miniature laser head has been developed by OpTek Systems Ltd for a specific application in Rolls-Royce Aerospace, but COBRA will develop the miniature laser control head to work in challenging new environments opening new markets for OpTek to exploit.

The development of the super-slender continuum robot will fall chiefly to the University of Nottingham (UNOTT) who have extensive experience of developing and manufacturing prototype equipment of such nature, some of which have been demonstrated and used in service in the aerospace sector.

Rolls-Royce and RACE will provide a number of demonstration scenarios to effectively prove the prototype device to TRL 6\. The consortium have plans to set up a UK supply chain toward the end of the project to provide productionisation of the concept and allow end users, such as Rolls-Royce, UKAEA and Sellafield, to utilise such a product."

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Rolls-Royce plc, United Kingdom £940,544 £ 470,272


United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority £279,996 £ 279,996
OpTek Limited, United Kingdom £427,918 £ 299,543
University of Nottingham £304,928 £ 304,928


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