Forth Engineering demonstrates underwater survey robot at Cumbria HQ

Forth Engineering plans to demonstrate the autonomous underwater system for nuclear inspection at its headquarters at Maryport, Cumbria on Thursday.

The demonstration is a part of the Autonomous Aquatic Inspection and Intervention (A2I2) project, a collaborative R&D project supported by Innovate UK under the Industrial Strategy Research Fund.

The A2I2 consortium, led by Rovco, is developing various technology for use across multiple sectors, including offshore wind, nuclear, oil and gas, and other industries, which aims to improve safety by reducing risks when working in challenging and hazardous environments.

Forth, Rovco, D-RisQ, the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), Thales UK and The University of Manchester, have been developing autonomous underwater systems as part of a cross-cutting programme, which brings together expertise from multiple industries and academia.

Rovco has been supporting each work stream with its artificial perception technologies including 3D Computer Vision, Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM), autonomous path planning and scene understanding using Machine Learning (ML).

Rovco’s Intelligent Data Collection System can be integrated into any subsea vehicle to enhance its capability.

D-RisQ brings advanced automated software development tools to safety-critical, security-critical and business-critical systems developers.

The University of Manchester is developing wireless underwater communications, which will ultimately eliminate the need for a tether, allowing the robots developed in A2I2 to operate more freely in hazardous environments.

The Marine Autonomous and Robotic Systems Group at NOC operates three fleets of submersibles and autonomous vehicles, comprising Autosub Submarines, Underwater Gliders and Remotely Operated Vehicles. Within A2I2, the group will develop a prototype, hover-capable AUV for use in the offshore case.

Thales is supporting the project by bringing its expertise in autonomous systems and domain knowledge to shape the design of the A2I2 robots and to identify additional use-cases for the technology.

Forth’s programme manager, Peter Routledge said: “Underwater robots are increasingly utilised for commercial and scientific applications to make measurements and interact with underwater assets and the environment. The project’s goal is to develop underwater autonomous vehicles that can improve safety and reduce the challenges of operating in hazardous environments.”

Forth has incorporated sonar technology with the robot’s system to detect and avoid obstacles underwater to enable the robots to be used near ‘critical infrastructure’. Alongside this Forth has developed an Enabling Technology which provides Launch and Recovery, recharging and high bandwidth communications for the ROV.