Robotics/unmanned systems

Subsea Power Company Joins RoboFish Team

Verlume and consortium partners are working to advance the development of a robotic fish designed for efficient offshore inspection.

The RoboFish prototype was built at the University of York and completed in 2020.
Source: Verlume

The inspection of offshore structures is complex, expensive, and reliant on human input. In addition, remotely operated vehicles and some larger autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) often have limited maneuverability. As the number of offshore structures increases with the rapid growth of the offshore wind sector, robotic inspections in harsh environments are moving to become less reliant on human input and more cost-effective compared with traditional inspections.

Subsea power-management company Verlume has joined a consortium to work on an autonomous underwater robot that moves like a fish for offshore inspection.

The AUV, named RoboFish, is made of several self-contained modules with a self-managed battery and actuator control for autonomous movement around underwater structures.

The RoboFish research consortium was initially formed of partners Verlume, the University of York, the University of Strathclyde, PicSea, the Supergen ORE Hub, and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult.

According to the University of York’s description of the RoboFish, it replicates the full-body movement of an eel or trout, “allowing greater agility in close proximity to structures and better energy efficiency of movement compared to conventional AUV designs.”

The prototype uses cameras for close-range navigation and inspection of structures. The visual data collected can be used to build visual models of the structure through 3D reconstruction methods. Future versions are planned to use a variety of on-board sensors to record data about a structure’s status.

“Through the use of innovative electronics, actuation, networking technology, and additive manufacturing techniques, we have been able to develop a modular robot that can move very precisely in challenging offshore environments,” said Mark Post, a lecturer in electronic engineering at the University of York. “The collaborative contributions of many partners have been instrumental in creating a practical platform to further develop robotic technologies in this field.”

The first RoboFish prototype was completed in summer 2020, and research to improve it and use it in new applications is ongoing.

Verlume is assisting with the development of an intelligent power system for RoboFish. The company will supply an underwater system for charging the AUV, as well as an integrated intelligent battery-management system. Both systems have been designed for harsh underwater environments.

“With an increasing focus on decarbonization and the automation of high-risk underwater tasks in the so-called Blue Economy, RoboFish is an example of how these operations can be revolutionized,” said Paul Slorach, business development director at Verlume.

Watch the video to learn more about RoboFish.

RoboFish Annual Assembly ORE Presentation - Jan 2021