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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iFROG

Applying an innovative robotic solution to one of offshore wind's most pressing challenges

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Robotics testing collaboration

iFROG is an Innovate-UK funded project that is led by a Cambridge-based SME. Their innovation is being tested at ORE Catapult’s world-leading facilities over the course of 2020.

The novel technology has the potential to redefine the possibilities for foundation inspection and monitoring, which in turn could enable improved methodologies for assessing structural integrity and even offer innovative repair solutions. It is forecast that the commercial offering would generate £40.2 million revenue in its first five years, creating a 28:1 return on investment and more than 200 new jobs in the consortium’s partner companies alone.

 

The challenge and the opportunity

Approximately 90 per cent of offshore wind turbines installed in UK waters are built upon monopile foundations, with the remaining 10 per cent consisting of jacket, gravity base and floating foundations. Across Western Europe alone the market for monopile inspection technologies is expanding at a rapid pace, from £38 million in 2017 to £81 million per year by 2022.

Exposed to the full force of the ocean’s relentless power, these foundations require pre-emptive inspection and extensive maintenance to remain in good condition over their operational lifespan. Current techniques make up around 65% of total operations and maintenance costs – and over 50% of that consists of hazardous visual inspections and non-destructive testing by divers.

Conditions at sea mean that lengthy waits for safe weather windows and cancellations of work are common. The result is that wind turbines can remain inoperable for days or weeks, and faults can lie undetected until they require major and costly remedial work.

 

The innovation

Innovate UK has funded research and development of a new solution proposed by InnoTecUK, a Cambridge-based SME specialising in robotics engineering. iFROG is a two-year research programme (March 2018 to August 2020) to apply a robotic solution for two of the offshore wind sector’s biggest headaches: the internal and external corrosion of monopiles and unexpected build-up of hydrogen sulphide gas in the structures’ confined internal areas.

iFROG is an amphibious climbing robot team for inspecting and predictive maintenance of subsea foundations. It will be capable of inspecting welds and repairing foundations both above the waterline and down to 60 metres below the surface. They will navigate monopile interior walls using novel adhesion technologies.

Working in teams, they will subject surfaces to non-destructive ultra-sonic testing according to their own test schedules. On detection of potential faults, the iFROG system will identify the best maintenance strategy for keeping the turbine operational and conducting pre-emptive repair.

By deploying the iFROG system, operators could increase the quality and frequency of inspections of their sub-sea structures, getting early warning of potentially costly defects or issues that could curtail their asset’s lifetime at sea. it is estimated that iFROG will save them £150k per year per foundation (equalling £4 million per turbine over the course of its lifecycle).

The versatility of iFROG means it can help operators manage multiple, potentially costly issues, such as:

  • internal corrosion;
  • fatigue cracks and imperfections in welding;
  • scour (erosion of the sea-bed sediment at the turbine base);
  • and build-up of hydrogen sulphide, a corrosive, poisonous and highly flammable gas that results from the decomposition of organic matter at the sea bottom and poses a hazard to workers and sub-structures.

 


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