EDINBURGH, UK – Five UK universities, working with 31 industrial and innovation partners, have secured up to £36 million ($47.2 million) of funds to support R&D into advanced robotics and AI technologies for the inspection, repair, maintenance and certification and decommissioning of offshore platforms and assets.
The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, a partnership between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, is leading the consortium which also includes Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, and the University of Liverpool.
They will work collaboratively under the title of the ‘Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets’ or ‘ORCA Hub’ to develop robotics and AI for extreme and unpredictable environments.
ORCA Hub will create robot-assisted asset inspection and maintenance technologies that can take autonomous and semi-autonomous decisions and interventions across aerial, topsides, and marine domains.
Funding will come mainly from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the industry partners.
Professor David Lane of Heriot-Watt University – the director of the ORCA Hub – said: “The international offshore energy industry faces many challenges, including near-permanent low oil prices, expensive decommissioning commitments of old infrastructure, particularly in the North Sea, and small margins on the traded commodity price per KWh of offshore renewable energy.
“Coupled to this, the offshore workforce is aging as the new generation of qualified graduates seek less hazardous onshore opportunities…
“The ORCA Hub’s activities are therefore designed to lead advancement in key robotics and AI technologies that will create a step change in the current practices of offshore inspection, repair, and maintenance. Ours will be the largest academic center in the world for research into offshore asset robotics technology.”