UK robotic platform for inspection and maintenance of offshore structures launches on global markets

Published 21 September 2021 Last updated 21 September 2021

Standing amidst powerful waves in salty waters, offshore wind turbines can suffer from rust and corrosion. Over time, they also accumulate weighty masses of algae and other microorganisms that can create drag, impede technicians trying to work on them and ultimately undermine and reduce turbines lifetimes at sea.

Sending divers to the depths of the ocean for maintenance and cleaning of subsea structures is a risky business that entails long delays as seas are in unsafe conditions for much of the year. Robotics that can utilise advanced testing methods to inspect and conduct pre-emptive maintenance on turbine structures reduce risk to life, costs, downtime and keep turbines going for longer.

Amphibian, developed by Cambridge’s Innvotek, is such a solution that has been fully tested and validated at ORE Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre through a series of underwater and above-water trials. Manufacturing of the robot begins this year and teams of Amphibians are now destined for work in the offshore renewables, shipping and oil and gas sectors.

The Innvotek team have worked closely with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and ORE Catapult under separate projects (ROBFMS and iFROG) to develop and ready their solution for operation in real-world conditions.

Amphibian, which can work above and below the waves (at depths of 60 metres), combines a unique set of mechanical and digital abilities which go beyond inspection to include maintenance and cleaning:

  • Rapid inspection of subsea structures and vessels
  • Ability to work in teams to fulfil maintenance schedules
  • Biometric scanning for fine cracks and defects and deep scanning of structural walls to detect long-term fatigue
  • Tailorable to most advanced NDT methods including Eddy Current and Ultrasonics
  • Cleaning and maintenance of surfaces (including paints and coatings) to remove hard and soft bio-fouling and corrosion
  • 360 degree manouverability on a variety of curved and domed surfaces

Following the success of their first projects, that have taken the platform to full operability, the Innvotek team are now poised to expand the platform’s abilities through a new research and development project. This project will test Amphibian’s ability to work within turbine nacelles too for inspection and maintenance of turbine generators.

Michael Corsar, Chief Technology Officer at Innvotek, explains the significance: “Amphibian is ready for deployment in industrial settings offshore and that is independently verified by ORE Catapult and EMEC. The support from these organisations and Innovate UK (we are now being supported by their Global Business Innovation Programme) has accelerated our route to market significantly.

“What this means for our company is a significant boost to our staff numbers: we are now hiring for customer service and product delivery teams who will be able to support the manufacturing and service provision to our customers.

“The market we are looking at is a global one, and we have contract negotiations underway outside of the UK already.”

“The development journey is not over though – the platform offers a lot of future possibilities for its mechanical repair abilities and the software that it can use for inspection and reporting. The support from organisations like EMEC and ORE Catapult has been invaluable in reaching the stage where we are a trusted technology for the offshore world, and this journey will continue.”

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