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Agency: GTR | Branch: EPSRC | Program: | Phase: Training Grant | Award Amount: 4.93M | Year: 2014

The global Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) market was $25.5bn in 2001 and is growing. The market potential for future robotics and autonomous systems is of huge value to the UK. The need for expansion in this important sector is well recognised, as evidenced by the Chancellor of the Exchequers announcement of £35m investment in the sector in 2012, the highlighting of this sector in the 2012 BIS Foresight report Technology and Innovation Futures and the identification of robotics and autonomous systems by the Minister for Universities and Science in 2013 as one of the 8 great technologies that will drive future growth. This expansion will be fuelled by a step change in RAS capability, the key to which is their increased adaptability. For example, a home care robot must adapt safely to its owners unpredictable behaviour; micro air vehicles will be sent into damaged buildings without knowing the layout or obstructions; a high value manufacturing robot will need to manufacture small batches of different components. The key to achieving increased adaptability is that the innovators who develop them must, themselves, be very adaptable people. FARSCOPE, the Future Autonomous and Robotic Systems Centre for PhD Education, aims to meet the need for a new generation of innovators who will drive the robotics and autonomous systems sector in the coming decade and beyond. The Centre will train over 50 students in the essential RAS technical underpinning skills, the ability to integrate RAS knowledge and technologies to address real-world problems, and the understanding of wider implications and applications of RAS and the ability to innovate within, and beyond, this sector. FARSCOPE will be delivered by a partnership between the University of Bristol (UoB) and the University of the West of England (UWE). It will bring together the dedicated 3000 square metre Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), one of the largest robotics laboratories in Europe, with a trainin and supervising team drawn from UoB and UWE offering a wide breadth of experience and depth of expertise in autonomous systems and related topics. The FARSCOPE centre will exploit the strengths of BRL, including medical and healthcare robotics, energy autonomous robotics, safe human-robot interactions, soft robotics, unconventional computing, experimental psychology, biomimicry, machine vision including vision-based navigation and medical imaging and an extensive aerial robotics portfolio including unmanned air vehicles and autonomous flight control. Throughout the four-year training programme industry and stakeholder partners will actively engage with the CDT, helping to deliver the programme and sharing both their domain expertise and their commercial experience with FARSCOPE students. This includes regular seminar series, industrial placements, group grand challenge project, enterprise training and the three-year individual research project. Engaged partners include BAE Systems, DSTL, Blue Bear Systems, SciSys, National Composites Centre, Rolls Royce, Toshiba, NHS SouthWest and OC Robotics. FARSCOPE also has commitment from a range of international partners from across Europe, the Americas and Asia who are offering student exchange placements and who will enhance the global perspective of the programme.


News Article | December 1, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

Thirty years ago, LaserSnake2 would be the name of a video game we would badly, badly want to get our hands on. In 2016, it’s the name of a real-life robot which looks, for all intents and purposes, like one of the terrifying creatures from Tremors and happens to shoot out five-kilowatt laser blasts for good measure. Recently, LaserSnake2 — described by its creators OC Robotics as an “integrated snake-arm robot and laser cutting” technology — turned its terrible, terrible wrath on a nuclear power plant in the U.K., carrying out the in-situ decommissioning of a nuclear cell at the First Generation Reprocessing Plants in Sellafield, England. The snake robot’s job was to cut through a thick dissolver vessel, which was previously part of the core nuclear reactor hardware. More: Snake robots will crawl up your nose to help surgeons perform surgery on you “The active deployment at Sellafield was a world first,” Rebecca Smith, a member of the business development team at OC Robotics, told Digital Trends. “There are significant benefits to using the LaserSnake system for size reduction in an active cell: the system can be deployed quicker and more practically than alternative size reduction techniques, and can dramatically reduce the costs of nuclear decommissioning.” Snake-arm robots, she noted, are routinely used across a broad spectrum of industries, including aerospace, construction, and defense due to their ability to maneuver into areas that might otherwise be tough to access. LaserSnake is a particularly impressive example of such a robot: boasting almost 15 feet of articulation and not only the aforementioned high-power laser cutting head but also high-definition cameras and supercharged illumination LEDs for easy operation. “The LaserSnake arm has two degrees of freedom at each joint allowing it to ‘snake’ through environments,” Smith continued. “Snake-arm robots are particularly suited to nuclear applications, as the sensitive electronics are situated outside of the environment — away from potential contamination or radiation, with only the arm deployed into the workspace.” It’s certainly done enough to win over the necessary decision-makers. In November, the LaserSnake project won the Technology/Innovation Implementation Award at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Supply Chain Awards. For those unfamiliar with it, that is pretty much the Oscars for nuclear decommissioning. Does that make the LaserSnake2 Leonardo DiCaprio? We’re not sure, to be honest; we’re still kind of hung up on that whole ‘it’s-a-giant-laser-toting-snake-robot’ thing.


Van Den Bos B.,DEKRA Industrial AB | Mallion A.,OC Robotics | Wilson C.,OC Robotics | Zwicker E.,Alstom | And 2 more authors.
Society of Petroleum Engineers - Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, ADIPEC 2015 | Year: 2015

Virtually all equipment in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry requires some kind of periodic inspection. Pressure vessels are an important part of the production process; currently the inspection of these are being done by human inspectors that require entry into the vessels. The working environment inside these vessels is potentially dangerous, and substantial precautions must be taken ensure the safety of the inspectors. These precautions take considerable time, making the inspection both very costly and hazardous. Robotic technology offers a safe alternative to human entry, and is now advanced enough to perform inspections remotely, minimising human entry thus increasing safety. The PETROBOT project has brought together inspection methods and robotic technology to reduce risks and cost involved in inspection of pressure vessels. PETROBOT comprises the complete value chain, from robot and inspection technology providers, to inspection service providers and end-users. The project has developed robotic deployment platforms and adapted industry standard inspection techniques to demonstrate the benefits of remote pressure vessel inspection. This paper presents the use case and progress made under PETROBOT for the inspection of pressure vessels. Two different, yet complementary robots have been developed, one a magnetic crawler; the other, a snake-arm robot. The two systems enable robotised inspection capabilities in a variety of pressure vessel designs. The robots carry a payload consisting of inspection tools: a camera for visual inspection, structured light for profilometry, and an ultrasonic transducer, and an eddy current transducer. These novel inspection technologies have been integrated into the robotic systems and have been tested and verified on artificial defects, as well as real pressure vessels in a laboratory environment. During the final stages of the PETROBOT project, they will be deployed in real installations of the participating end users. Copyright 2015, Society of Petroleum Engineers.


Chen J.,IdaTech LLC | Chitrakaran V.K.,OC Robotics | Dawson D.M.,Clemson University
Automatica | Year: 2011

In this paper, an adaptive nonlinear estimator is developed to identify the range and the 3D Euclidean coordinates of feature points on a moving object using a single fixed camera. No explicit model is used to describe the movement of the object. Homography-based techniques are used in the development of the object kinematics, while an adaptive nonlinear estimator is designed by employing signal filters. Lyapunov design methods are utilized to facilitate the design of the estimator and filters as well as the convergence and stability analysis. The performance of the estimator is demonstrated by simulation results. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Buckingham R.,OC Robotics
Nuclear Engineering International | Year: 2011

Safire is a snake-arm robot developed by CC Robotics and Ontario Power Generation to perform outage inspections in the Upper Feeder Cabinets (UFC) in Candu reactors. The robot offers new inspection tools and reduces worker's job, and is designed for the challenging work environment combining radiation, elevated temperatures, and confined spaces. The robot is a remotely controlled robot that is equipped with a 2.2m long, 12.5mm wide, 18 degrees-of-freedom arm that literally snakes under the catwalk and between the hangers, carrying cameras to take images of the pipe work. Safire is controlled from within a trailer parked up to 500m from the UFC. Safire includes tip-mounted camera tool and high power LED lights, and the robot is designed to be a dose-tolerant workhorse, gathering data during every outage in order to build up a picture of the state of the feeders and track any changes.


Buckingham R.,OC Robotics | Graham A.,OC Robotics
Industrial Robot | Year: 2012

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to describe the use of snake-arm robots to conduct inspection and repair operations within nuclear power plants. The systems that have been developed and deployed are described. Operational experience and results are provided. Inspection and repair of aging plant is increasingly important to continue to generate electricity safely from high value assets. Design/methodology/approach - Snake-arm robots are hyper-redundant, multi-jointed, wire rope drive manipulators that are able to snake between obstructions and gain access to areas that are inaccessible to people. Findings - The benefits to nuclear operators arising from the deployment of snake arm robots include significant dose saving, increased quality and quantity of acquired data and the ability to enable repairs in highly confined spaces. Originality/value - The two case studies are first-of-kind applications and indicate a direction of travel for the coming decades, both in the nuclear sector and far beyond. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


Buckingham R.O.,OC Robotics | Graham A.C.,OC Robotics
2010 1st International Conference on Applied Robotics for the Power Industry, CARPI 2010 | Year: 2010

Life extension and plant management of nuclear assets is a critical issue for nuclear operators. This paper considers the growing requirement to ascertain the state of the nuclear systems by means of direct plant measurement, with the consequential requirement to conduct in-situ repairs. These requirements have driven the development of new remote handling techniques. The paper considers the application of a new design of remote handling systems to two different tasks within different reactor types. The first task involved removal and replacement of a section of SCRAM pipe within a BWR. The second task involves the first deployment of a new inspection tool to access primary circuit feeder pipes within the Upper Feeder Cabinets of CANDU reactors. Both tasks have confined space, limited access requirements, in addition to nuclear radiation hazards and required deployment of nose-following multi-degree of freedom snake-arm robot systems. ©2010 IEEE.


News Article | December 16, 2015
Site: www.rdmag.com

Previous studies have suggested the fear of snakes started when mammals developed perceptive abilities capable of focusing on threatening things. Regardless of whether one’s fear approaches phobia—ophidiophobia—or just a passing revulsion, it may be an echo of an ancient mammalian fear pre-wired into the brain. But the snake’s sleek body allows it to navigate efficiently through a variety of terrains, including subterranean tunnels. And humans can learn something from that. Recently, OC Robotics successfully demonstrated their snake-arm robot in an in-bore pipe welding feasibility test called the LaserPipe project. “Modern industrial sites require regular maintenance to replace or repair deteriorated pipes,” according to the U.K.-based OC Robotics. “A result of the challenging environment, confined space and limited external access is that external orbital cutting and welding processes are not viable for many applications and, consequently, in-bore remote processing has generated significant interest in recent years.” In the test, the snake-arm robot successfully demonstrated remote location of a weld joint, alignment of the laser, and in-bore laser welding. The technology is driven by wire ropes and controlled via OC Robotics’ proprietary software. “Snake-arm robots are ideally suited for confined and hazardous applications, as the motors, electronics and control systems are situated outside the environment, with only the arm itself being deployed into the work space,” according to OC Robotics. The project was a collaboration with TWI Ltd. Other institutions, such as Carnegie Mellon Univ., have developed snake robots for use in disaster relief. Additionally, the development has popped up in the medical field, among other areas.


News Article | November 28, 2016
Site: www.technologyreview.com

A remotely controlled writhing robotic arm is being used to cut through thick metal in hostile environments. Say hello to the Laser Snake. As well as looking like something from a nightmare, according to its makers it’s also the world’s first device to be used to remotely laser-cut equipment inside a nuclear power facility. Developed by the U.K.-based company OC Robotics, the machine uses a series of wire ropes that run along the length of its arm to articulate its joints. Carefully adjusting tension in each of the cables enables it to twist itself through tight spaces and negotiate awkward geometries. The robotic arm itself is actually hollow, which allows OC Robotics to install tools at its end—in this case, for laser cutting. The arm currently holds a five-kilowatt laser, which is able to cut through thick plates of steel in both air and water. Its most recent test took place in the Sellafield nuclear power plant, in the north of England, which is currently being decommissioned. There, it was used to slice up a thick dissolver vessel, which had previously formed part of the core nuclear reactor hardware. It’s by no means the first robot designed to work in hostile environments. The Atlas robot, made by Boston Dynamics, was designed as a humanoid machine that could carry out tasks in dangerous locations. Toshiba even built a submersible robot designed specifically to help repair the Fukushima nuclear power plant. These kinds of robots all serve to remove humans from undue risk. And, in the case of Laser Snake, perhaps even keep you awake at night.

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