Robotics & Autonomous Systems

Find out more about our robotics and autonomous systems testing and validation facilities.

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Electrical Infrastructure Research Hub

The Catapult has appointed the University of Strathclyde and the University of Manchester to form the Electrical Infrastructure Research Hub.

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Automation & Engineering Solutions

Find out more about our work in robotics, autonomous systems and artificial intelligence.

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Stay Current

Dig deeper into the biggest issues facing offshore wind, wave and tidal energy with our series of Analysis & Insight papers.

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Live Innovation Opportunities

There are a number of programmes laying out the key technology innovation challenges faced by the offshore renewables industry that, when solved, will help drive down the cost of offshore renewable energy, with positive effects for the industry and UK economy. Visit our Live Innovation Opportunities page to find out if your technology has the answer.

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Intro

Offshore wind farms are hazardous environments for the personnel deployed to carry out vital surveys, inspections and repairs. Taking technicians out of these dangerous, far-offshore sites is a priority for the industry, so research is ongoing to develop robotic and autonomous systems that can improve health and safety while also making gains in efficiency and reducing maintenance costs.

Published
Fri 22 Feb 2019
Last Updated
Mon 26 Aug 2019

Trial and Demonstration

First, though, offshore wind owner/operators need to have the confidence and trust in these new systems to deploy them in remote environments. The Catapult’s world-leading robotics and autonomous systems testing and validation facilities helped the London start-up SME Bladebug develop its robotic crawler, which uses novel adhesion technology to walk along the surface of a turbine blade, collecting data on its condition.

Because it operates remotely, Bladebug takes technicians out of dangerous situations and can be deployed even when the wind is too strong for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to fly. The Catapult’s cost modelling suggests that a fully-developed inspection crawler could reduce the cost of blade maintenance activities by at least 30% compared to traditional methods.

After helping Bladebug secure an Innovate UK grant to develop the crawler, we provided a third-party witness to the system’s trial and demonstration, giving its developers the confidence that the technology is viable and ready for use in the field.

Smarter Autonomous Systems

Bladebug robotic crawler offshore wind ORE Catapult testing validation

Our expert engineers provided extensive technical recommendations based on their industry knowledge and unparalleled experience of offshore wind robotics and autonomous systems to further strengthen the company’s business case.

We also produced a commercial study as part of a collaborative Innovate UK project to de-risk and develop a robotic platform for turbine blade inspection, helping Bladebug tailor its approach as a new market entrant. The recently-awarded funding for the second phase of the project will see Bladebug working in collaboration with the Catapult to further develop the robot’s control systems, conduct enhanced representative testing and demonstration, and produce a commercially-ready solution.

The company is now working with the Catapult and a consortium of multi-disciplinary partners on the pioneering MIMRee project, which is developing the world’s first fully-autonomous inspection and repair solution, and in August 2019 more than quadrupled its workforce – proof positive of the Catapult’s impact in creating jobs and economic growth for UK SMEs. The steps taken by this spider-like robot may be small, but with our support the technology has taken giant leaps forward.

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