Ireland unveils €2M marine robot

University of Limerick (UL) has launched an innovative underwater robot that will be used to inspect, repair and maintain marine renewable energy facilities.

The Science Foundation Ireland-funded remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Étaín can operate in challenging wind, wave, and tidal conditions and will be used to service the marine renewable energy sector.

Researchers at UL’s Centre for Robotics and Intelligence Systems (CRIS) have enhanced a commercially available ROV system – Forum Energy Technology’s Comanche ROV – with UL-developed advanced control software (OceanRings), precision navigation and flight control, state-of-the-art robotic imaging and sonar systems and fully automated manipulator systems.

These advanced features allow the robot to operate in the challenging environment of ocean renewable energy to support inspection, repair and maintenance operations, according to the University.

Speaking at the launch, Minister of State Pat Breen said: “Internationally, the offshore renewable energy sector is set to rapidly grow which will help to reduce carbon emissions and arrest climate change. Ireland has the best wind and wave resources in Europe and it is vital that as an island nation we invest and engage in research in the area of marine energy technology.”

Professor Daniel Toal, Director of the Centre for Robotics and Intelligence Systems at UL, added: “Operation support in the marine renewable energy sector usually occurs on floating infrastructures so conditions are regularly beyond the capability and operating limits of commercial ROV technology. This means new smart ROV systems capability is necessary and that is what our team at UL has developed and launched today.”

UL’s Centre for Robotics and Intelligence Systems is part of the University College Cork led SFI national Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI).

The MaREI robotics lab at UL leads operations support engineering projects with industry partners such as Shannon Foynes Port Company, ESB, Ireland’s National Space Centre, SonarSim, Teledyne, Resolve Marine, CIL, IDS Monitoring and among others.

Des Fitzgerald, University of Limerick President, said: “The advanced robotics technology developed at UL will be crucial in supporting the burgeoning marine renewable energy sector. It will also play a significant role in reducing the cost of installing and maintaining large-scale offshore energy generation infrastructure.”