CASE STUDY - ROBOTICS
The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics is host to or participates in three of the UK national Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) research hubs investigating the use of advanced robotics in extreme environments where it is unsafe for humans to operate:
• Research with the NASA Valkyrie (related to the FAIR-SPACE hub) is focused on robotic pre-deployment and assisted human robot operations in the space domain – both near earth and remote.
• Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets (ORCA) hub, hosted by the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, addresses challenges of remote asset monitoring, maintenance and operations of the Offshore Oil and Gas platforms and Offshore Renewable platforms by deploying semi-autonomous robots.
• The ANYmal quadruped research platform contributes to the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR) hub, focused on nuclear decommissioning, exploration and asset maintenance.
These projects are funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with matching investment from Industry across sectors ranging from Oil and Gas, Construction, Robotics and Space.
What issues are they addressing?
RAI solutions will help address grand challenges facing humankind in the future, working in extreme environments such as offshore or in space or with hazardous materials that can be unsuitable and unsafe for humans. For example, with 4.9 million tonnes of legacy nuclear waste in the UK alone, the challenge of nuclear waste clean-up is the largest and most complex environmental remediation task in Europe.
How can RAI help?
These research hubs are conducting ground-breaking research and experiments to develop RAI solutions for these issues.
• The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics is using the NASA Valkyrie humanoid robot for research and experiments in humanoid control, motion planning, sensing, and perception, enabling robots to perform complex and dangerous tasks in outer space.
• The ORCA hub aims to develop, deploy and validate RAI technology for the inspection, maintenance and repair of offshore and nuclear energy assets. The hub will develop the core underpinning science as well as test demonstrators that progress the long-term industry vision to run and maintain offshore energy fields, using shared autonomy, from the shore.
• With nuclear waste, much of the hazardous work could be carried out by robots. NCNR will be at the forefront of developing technologies for these robotic solutions and training the next generation of nuclear roboticists. The University of Edinburgh will contribute research that looks at navigation in such environments using unique hardware platforms such as the ANYmal quadruped.
Who is it going to help?
By developing RAI applications for these challenging environments, these research hubs will improve the economic viability, safety and reliability of working projects in these areas.
What are the potential applications?
• From the FAIR-SPACE programme, potential applications could include: orbital robots for repairing satellites, manufacturing and assembling in space, and removing space debris; planetary robots for surveying, extracting resources, and deploying infrastructure; and Interoperability between astronauts and robots.
• With the ORCA project, in the long term the advances will enable further offshore energy developments and exploration in hazardous and extreme environments, and the remote running, inspection and maintenance of offshore assets.
• NCNR hub research has the potential to develop safer and more effective ways to deal with nuclear decommissioning and asset maintenance, and lead to new developments in the nuclear sector.