Underwater Survey Robot Capable of Functioning In High-Risk Environment Showcased In UK

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The project’s goal is to develop underwater autonomous vehicles which can improve safety and reduce the challenges of operating in hazardous environments, such as in storage ponds on nuclear sites

A new technology called the Autonomous Aquatic Inspection and Intervention (A2I2), an ‘intelligent’ underwater autonomous survey robot fitted with sonar technology to detect and avoid obstacles so it can be used near critical infrastructure, developed by a collaboration of companies from across the UK, has been showcased a live demonstration. The A2I2 collaborative completed its nuclear use case drop two trials at Forth’s Deep Recovery Facility in Cumbria.

The R&D project is led by Rovco and supported by Innovate UK under the Industrial Strategy Research Fund, involves Forth, Rovco, D-RisQ, the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), Thales UK and The University of Manchester.

The project’s goal is to develop underwater autonomous vehicles which can improve safety and reduce the challenges of operating in hazardous environments, such as in storage ponds on nuclear sites.

During a two-hour presentation and demonstration attendees saw A2I2 successfully move autonomously through the pond, avoid collisions, locate items on the pond floor and relay images that were able to be viewed, analysed and interpreted in real-time on screens nearby on dry land.

Rovco’s Senior Robotics Engineer Gary Cross said, “The whole challenge of this particular project was removing people from hazardous and dangerous environments. One of the key things is increasing the distance between the operators and the environment they’re working in. And the easiest way to do that is to make the vehicle remote, remotely controlled and remotely operated.

Key Aspects of A2I2

  • Advanced perception system and mapping capabilities, enabling users to use the autonomy to provide the appropriate systems to the pilots who can still be controlled in a safe and meaningful way within the pond.
  • Even without any prior knowledge of where it has been before, the robots were able to go in with a sensor package and begin reconstructing that environment for future uses.
  • Altering the capability of the last response engine as critical safety decision-making software. Additionally, flexibility in changing the way in which it behaves to be able to take in new sensors and information and make a sound decision on that.
  • A built-in collision avoidance systems and enable communications from within the pond.

Forth’s Programme Manager Peter Routledge added, “I think that with further development, this can become a single modular approach. So, if somebody just needed the LRE (last response engine) capability to stop things colliding in ponds, then that is one aspect that could be used if you were looking for wireless technology.

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