By COLIN DOBELL, President and CEO
Reducing the risks to humans while improving inspection results of some of the most dangerous infrastructure on the planet is a growing field that is attracting an increase in investment money, as previously mentioned.
Traditional safety-critical structures such as nuclear reactors, offshore oil and gas platforms, and petrochemical plants are aging, increasing demand for precise inspections while reducing risks to human inspectors. New technology such as wind turbines, being built to meet growing clean energy demands, also require continuous inspection but still pose significant risk to human inspectors.
Acknowledging there is a growing market in the remote inspection field, some of the brightest minds in the robotics field have been financed with $2.2M USD to develop the next era of inspection robots: autonomous robotic systems that can perform inspections with little or no human operator involvement.
These won’t be your average Roombas.
As engineers here at Inuktun are well aware, every oil platform, nuclear reactor and petrochemical plants has its own design signature, requiring a high level of customization both in engineering and software development for every inspection crawler that is built. Building autonomous robots to perform these inspection tasks will be challenging and expensive.
According to the U.K’s Business Weekly, the project will be headed by London South Bank University’s Professor Tariq Sattar, a leading mind in robotics, mechatronics and non-destructive testing. In collaboration with TWI and its 700 industrial member companies, Sattar’s 14-person research team from the London South Bank Innovation Centre for Automation of NDT will work out of TWI’s 25,000 square metre world class facility in Cambridge.
Because Inuktun is also built on the philosophy that humans should be removed from potentially deadly environments and robots should be tasked with inspecting confined and hazardous spaces, we’re excited to see the results that emerge from this project.
Looking to the future, it is also encouraging to see industry and academic institutions working together to create programs such as the UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network to promote high-level education aimed at the growing demand for industrial service robots.