A consortium of five universities, including Heriot-Watt University, working with 35 industrial and innovation partners, has unveiled the latest results from its multimillion-pound research collaboration.
The largest academic center in the world for research into robotics technology for offshore energy infrastructure, the ORCA Hub’s aim is to advance robotics and Artificial Intelligence technologies for the inspection, repair, maintenance and certification of offshore energy platforms and assets.
“The ORCA Hub’s objective is to remove humans from hard to reach, hazardous and dangerous work environments and our demonstration to industry presents the far-reaching potential of this robotic solution.” Dr. Mirko Kovac
Creating solutions to some of the most challenging, hard to reach and hazardous real-world problems in the energy sector, ORCA Hub was launched in October 2017. It forms part of the Government’s £93m R&D funding on “Robotics and AI for Extreme Environments” through the Industry Strategic Challenge Fund (ISCF).
The ORCA Hub is led by the Edinburgh Center for Robotics, a partnership between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. The consortium also includes Imperial College London, the University of Oxford and the University of Liverpool.
Unveiling recent results at its third presentation to industry, the ORCA Hub showcased the application of 16 autonomous and semi-autonomous robotic solutions at ORE Catapult in Blyth, near Newcastle.
Designed to boost safety, improve efficiency and support the environmental objectives of offshore energy infrastructure, the Hub demonstrated the applications of its work in a renewables themed showcase, reflecting the growing importance of renewable energy to the UK’s energy mix.
The event, attended by over 30 industry stakeholders, included a demonstration of state-of-the-art autonomous drones by Dr. Mirko Kovac, director of the aerial robotics laboratory at Imperial College London. He explained: “Drones are currently used to visually inspect offshore wind turbines, but these inspections are remotely controlled by people on-site at the offshore location. Should an area of concern be found, technicians are required to carry out further inspection, maintenance or repair, often at great heights and therefore in high-risk environments.