ORCA Stream B - Towards Resident Robots

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science


The international offshore energy industry is undergoing as revolution, adopting aggressive net-zero objectives and shifting rapidly towards large scale offshore wind energy production. This revolution cannot be done using 'business as usual' approaches in a competitive market with low margins. Further, the offshore workforce is ageing as new generations of suitable graduates prefer not to work in hazardous places offshore. Operators therefore seek more cost effective, safe methods and business models for inspection, repair and maintenance of their topside and marine offshore infrastructure. Robotics and artificial intelligence are seen as key enablers in this regard as fewer staff offshore reduces cost, increases safety and workplace appeal. The long-term industry vision is thus for a digitised offshore energy field, operated, inspected and maintained from the shore using robots, digital architectures and cloud based processes to realise this vision. In the last 3 years, we has made significant advances to bring robots closer to widespread adoption in the offshore domain, developing close ties with industrial actors across the sector. The recent pandemic has highlighted a widespread need for remote operations in many other industrial sectors.
The ORCA Hub extension is a one year project from 5 UK leading universities with over 20 industry partners (>£2.6M investment) which aims at translating the research done into the first phase of the Hub into industry led use cases. Led by the Edinburgh Centre of Robotics (HWU/UoE), in collaboration with Imperial College, Oxford and Liverpool Universities, this multi-disciplinary consortium brings its unique expertise in: Subsea (HWU), Ground (UoE, Oxf) and Aerial robotics (ICL); as well as human-machine interaction (HWU, UoE), innovative sensors for Non Destructive Evaluation and low-cost sensor networks (ICL, UoE); and asset management and certification (HWU, UoE, LIV).
The Hub will provide remote solutions using robotics and AI that are applicable across a wide range of industrial sectors and that can operate and interact safely in autonomous or semi-autonomous modes in complex and cluttered environments. We will develop robotics solutions enabling accurate mapping , navigation around and interaction with assets in the marine, aerial and ground environments that support the deployment of sensors for asset monitoring. This will be demonstrated using 4 industry led use cases developed in close collaboration with our industry partners and feeding directly into their technology roadmaps: Offshore Renewable Energy Subsea Inspection in collaboration with EDF, Wood, Fugro, OREC, Seebyte Ltd and Rovco; Aerial Inspection of Large Infrastructures in Challenging Conditions in collaboration with Barrnon, BP, Flyability, SLAMCore, Voliro and Helvetis; Robust Inspection and Manipulation in Hazardous Environments in collaboration with ARUP, Babcock, Chevron, EMR, Lafarge, Createc, Ross Robotics; Symbiotic Systems for Resilient Autonomous Missions in collaboration with TLB, Total Wood and the Lloyds Register. This will see the Hub breach into new sectors and demonstrate the potential of our technology on a wider scale.


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