Fully autonomous robots are being developed Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets Hub (ORCA) to inspect damaged wind farms in the United Kingdom (UK).
ORCA is developing robots that do not require a human operator and could end the practice of technicians going down turbines to conduct repairs at wind farms.
ORCA, which considers itself the largest academic center of its kind in the world, is led by Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh universities via its Center for Robotics.It also involves Imperial College London, the universities of Oxford and Liverpool, and over 30 industry partners.
The new drone has been developed by Dr. Mirko Kovac and his colleagues in the aerial robotics laboratory at Imperial College London. While aerial drones are already being used offshore for inspecting hard-to-reach structures, this drone can maneuver to attach itself to vertical surfaces and has a robotic arm.
This drone could potentially be able to fly down a wind turbine not only to inspect it but also to deploy a sensor or carry out a repair. Its autonomous feature means there is no need for anyone to be onshore to use a remote control.
Meanwhile, the ANYmal robot, produced by ANYbotics, is being used by Oxford’s Dynamics Robot Systems Group to develop new planning and navigation techniques. Prof. David Lane of Heriot-Watt, principal investigator at the Orca Hub, says that the four-legged robot could be useful in the energy industry.
Lane said: “A lot of the offshore platforms we work on are very small. The spaces are very confined, and wheeled robots won’t be able to negotiate their way around the whole platform. So robots that crawl, that have legs and can walk, they can go places on the platform that other robots wouldn’t be able to.”
Other technologies being developed by ORCA’s partners include robots that can roll on wheels, float on water or sink beneath its surface.