A MULTI-MILLION pound robotics hub led by two Scottish universities has unveiled 16 autonomous and semi-autonomous robots for the inspection, maintenance and decommissioning of offshore energy infrastructure.

Orca – Offshore Robotics for the Certification of Assets – is led by the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, a partnership between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, and is the biggest academic centre in the world for research into such technology. Imperial College London, and the universities of Oxford and Liverpool are also involved.

In a presentation to industry at the ORE Catapult in Blyth, near Newcastle, the hub showcased its 16 robotic solutions to some of the most challenging, hard to reach and hazardous real-world problems in the energy sector.

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Stakeholders saw a demonstration of state-of-the-art autonomous drones by Dr Mirko Kovac, director of the aerial robotics laboratory at Imperial College. He said: “Our drones are fully autonomous. As well as visually inspecting a turbine for integrity concerns, ours make contact, placing sensors on the infrastructure, or acting as a sensor itself, to assess the health of each asset.

“Our technology could even deposit repair material for certain types of damage. This has far reaching applications including removing the need for humans to abseil down the side of turbines which can be both dangerous and expensive.

“Our drones could also reduce the number of vessels travelling to and from wind farms, providing the industry with both cost and environmental benefits.”

The National: The drones would be able to survey wind farms without the dangers of using humansThe drones would be able to survey wind farms without the dangers of using humans

Other demonstrations included Limpet, a cost-effective, integrated multi-sensing device that replaces the need for multiple sensors to be used for integrity monitoring on wind turbines. They can wirelessly communicate with each other, or a human operator, working subsea or topside and can provide an early warning system for asset inspection and maintenance requirements.

Professor David Lane, from Heriot-Watt University and Orca Hub director, said: “The Orca Hub is providing game-changing, remote solutions that can be easily integrated into existing and future assets and sensors for both the renewables sector and traditional industries like oil and gas extraction.”

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