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The robots leading the renewable energy revolution

Published 30 April 2020

The robots leading the offshore renewables revolution

The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult was founded to accelerate the world’s transition to cleaner energy, ensuring that UK companies are at the helm of a global export market. Operations at offshore sites are conducted by rope-access technicians working in restricted and hazardous conditions. Adoption of robotics will ensure we can create the jobs of the future onshore in high-growth data, digital and robotics engineering and supervisory roles. Meet some of the UK’s upcoming green energy robots and their special powers….

Game-Changer: BladeBUG Ltd, London

Robot: BladeBUG, a six-legged, crawling inspect-and-repair robot
Terrain: Offshore wind farm blades, which are 100m long plus and 100 metres above the sea
Special Powers:

  • Ability to crawl on blades using suction powered feet and ‘sense’ surfaces
  • Ultrasonic non-destructive testing to find cracks, erosion and fissures
  • Localised mapping of surfaces
  • Repairing damage to blades by painting on new composite layers

Objectives:

  • Save the wind industry 30% on its inspection and maintenance costs
  • Allow for pre-emptive inspections by having robots resident on site
  • Grow the BladeBUG microbusiness into a global technology provider

BladeBUG 2 is a £1 million project with funding from Innovate UK which brings together BladeBUG Limited and ORE Catapult

Game-Changer: InnoTecUK, Cambridge

Robot: iFROG, an amphibious climbing robot for inspecting and predictive maintenance of sub-sea foundations
Terrain: Monopile walls, both above the sea surface and up to 60 metres below
Special Powers:
  • Non-destructive ultrasonic testing for corrosion, H2S gas build-up, welding fatigue and scour (erosion of sediment around foundations)
  • Novel adhesion technologies
  • Cleaning system for removing biofouling
  • Big data knowledge management system
Objectives:
  • Move a UK business into the lead of a global monopile inspection market that will be worth £81 million by 2022, creating 200 new jobs
  • Send robots into hazardous sub-sea conditions rather than human divers
  • Save the offshore wind industry £4 million per turbine over its lifetime
iFROG is a £1 million project funded by Innovate UK with the participation of InnoTecUK, ORE Catapult, TWI Ltd and Brunel University London

Game-Changer: Rovco, Bristol

Robot: SubSLAM X1

Terrain: Sub-sea and sea-bed
Special Powers:
  • High resolution 3D point clouds of subsea objects with millimetric precision
  • Stereo camera to recreate 3D reconstructions of subsea scenes and structures
  • Remotely operated or works autonomously
Objectives:
  • Reduce cost of subsea inspections by 80%
  • Grow an innovative UK SME to corner a £20 million annual export market, creating 70 highly-skilled jobs
Rovco AUV3D Phase 2 is a £1.3 million project funded by Innovate UK with the participation of Rovco Ltd, ORE Catapult and Scottish Power Renewables

Game-Changer: HydroSurv, Exeter

Robot: REAV, an autonomous vessel for rapid asset inspections and criminal investigations at sea
Terrain: Sea surface
Special Powers:
  • Intelligent navigation and collision avoidance technologies
  • Long-range radar and short-range machine vision
  • Hydro-acoustic and optical sensors
Objectives:
  • Reduce the cost of surveys and inspections at sea by more than 60%
  • Provide the option of a lightweight autonomous vessel suitable for shallow waters
  • Reduce environmental impact by having no direct air emissions
  • Provide a route to market for microbusiness HydroSurv
HydroSurv Demonstrator is a £900,000 project funded by ISCF with the participation of HydroSurv, ORE Catapult, CoreBlue Ltd and Reygar

Game-Changer: MIMRee

MIMRee (Multi-Platform Inspection, Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments) is an ambitious project that will bring together a chain of robotic systems for full-scale missions to offshore wind farms. It is a £4.2 million investment by Innovate UK that will see drones, robotic vessels and robot repairers work together using NASA-inspired mission planning software:
MIMRee is a £4.2 million project funded by Innovate UK with the participation of Plant Integrity, ORE Catapult, Royal Holloway – The University of London, Royal College of Art (RCA), Thales, University of Manchester, University of Bristol, Wootzano Ltd



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