The month of September has seen the FP7 Pandora project, coordinated by HWU featuring in very high profile events across Europe:
Brussels, Belgium : MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) Signing Event for the Robotics Public-Private Partnership, with the presence of the EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes and members of her cabinet. Pandora was the only project highlighted dealing with underwater technology.
Arenzano, Italy : IFAC MCMC ’12 conference – one of the most important AUV-related conferences organised by the International Federation of Automatic Control, on Manoeuvring and Control of Marine Craft, with worldwide speakers and audience.
Southampton, UK : IEEE AUV’12 – the only IEEE conference totally devoted to AUV research and technology, with worldwide speakers and audience.
Scientists from a leading university in Scotland are heading up a pan-European project to create the most advanced, autonomous, cognitive robot which could help to dramatically reduce the cost of underwater monitoring operations and maintenance within the oil and gas industry.
The team from the Ocean Systems Laboratory (OSL) at Heriot-Watt University is designing a new approach to computational cognition for use in Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), with the aim of significantly improving the inspection, repair and maintenance reliability of vehicles used for underwater monitoring.
The system, named PANDORA: Persistent Autonomy through learNing, aDaptation, Observation and Re-plAnning will be trialed on three different AUVs in Scotland and Spain covering in-lab and deep water conditions, to test the system on vehicles and monitor their ability to operate in ‘real’ environments, overcome challenges, accommodate hardware failures and seek alternative missions when idle.
Following the Deep Water Horizon crisis in 2010, calls were made to dramatically improve the type and intelligence of vehicles used for underwater inspection and intervention, to reduce the opportunity for events of that scale to reoccur.
The European Commission issued a call for ideas on ways to increase the thinking capacity of robots supported by the provision of significant funding for viable projects. Identifying the opportunity to put their expertise to the test, the team of scientists, headed up by Professor David Lane, Founder of SeeByte, a Heriot-Watt spin out company, applied to the Commission with a comprehensive, three year research plan to create and develop Pandora for global commercial use. Their plan was the highest praised out of all responses and the team was duly awarded €2.8M (£2.3M).
Professor Lane explained the background to the project: “The issue with autonomous robots is that they are not very good at being autonomous. They often get stuck or ask for help and generally only succeed in familiar environments, when carrying out simple tasks. Over the next three years, our challenge is to develop a computational prpgramme which will enable robots to recognise failure and have the intelligence to respond to it.
“We will develop and evaluate new computational methods to make human-built robots persistently autonomous, significantly reducing the frequency of assistance requests. This is an exceptionally exciting time for us and we are delighted with the response we had from the European Commission, which has allowed us to progress with our research.”
Libor Král, Head of Unit, Cognitive Systems and Robotics, DG Information Society and Media, European Commission, said: “PANDORA is a particularly exciting robotics project undertaken by top European experts.
“The researchers have identified a real issue in an underwater environment where cutting-edge technology can help solve challenging problems. The European Commission is delighted to be supporting this latest addition to its portfolio of over 100 projects, within the EU’s research seventh framework programme.”
Three core themes will be explored over the course of the project, working synergistically together, that are tailored for the underwater environment. These are:
The project is being run in partnership with five universities across Europe – Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia, University of Girona, King’s College London and National Technical University of Athens, with steering committee members from BP and SubSea7.
More information can be found at http://osl.eps.hw.ac.uk/.
For further information, please contact Lally Cowell, Associate Communications Director at MMM on T: 0141 221 9041 / E: email@example.com
The AUV has been designed und build at the University of Girona (Spain) by the research group ViCOROB. The GIRONA 500 is a compact and lightweight AUV with hoovering capabilities which can fulfill the particular needs of any application by means of specific payloads and a reconfigurable propulsion system.
GIRONA 500 AUV will be used in Pandora to carry out two of the three demonstrations scheduled in the project. For the first demonstration, a water jet will be attached to GIRONA 500 to clean the chain of an anchor. In the second demonstration a manipulator will be connected to GIRONA 500 to turn the valves of an underwater panel.
The GIRONA 500 is a reconfigurable autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) designed for a maximum operating depth of up to 500 m. The vehicle is composed of an aluminum frame which supports three torpedo-shaped hulls of 0.3 m in diameter and 1.5 m in length as well as other elements like the thrusters. This design offers a good hydrodynamic performance and a large space for housing the equipments while maintaining a compact size which allows operating the vehicle from small boats. The overall dimensions of the vehicle are 1 m in height, 1 m in width, 1.5 m in length and a weight of less than 200 Kg. The two upper hulls, which contain the flotation foam and the electronics housing, are positively buoyant, while the lower one contains the more heavy elements such as the batteries and the payload. This particular arrangement of the components separates the centre of gravity from the centre of buoyancy by about 11 cm, which is significantly more than found in a typical torpedo shape design. This provides the vehicle with passive stability in pitch and roll, making it suitable for tasks that will benefit from a steady platform such as interventions or imaging surveys.
The most remarkable characteristic of the GIRONA 500 is its capacity to reconfigure for different tasks. In its standard configuration, the vehicle is equipped with typical navigation sensors (DVL, AHRS, pressure gauge and USBL) and basic survey equipment (profiler sonar, side scan sonar, video camera and sound velocity sensor). In addition to these sensors, almost half the volume of the lower hull is reserved for payload equipment that can be configured according to the requirements of a particular mission. The electric arm is the first payload developed for the GIRONA 500. The same philosophy has been applied to the propulsion system, which is also reconfigurable. The basic layout has 4 thrusters, two vertical to actuate the heave and pitch and two horizontal for the yaw and surge. However, it is possible to reconfigure the vehicle to operate with only 3 thrusters (one vertical and two horizontal) and with up to 8 thrusters to control all the degrees of freedom.