ISCF Robots for a Safer World Cross-Hub Activities

The Use of Digital Twins for Robotic Inspection, Maintenance and Repair 

The use of robots and AI represents the future of critical infrastructure inspection, repair and maintenance.  Through the ISCF’s ‘Robots for a Safer World’ scheme, four world-leading research hubs; FAIRSPACE, NCNR, ORCA and RAIN, have been developing solutions for use in hazardous and challenging environments, such as those found in the nuclear, offshore and space sectors.

Significant research has been undertaken across the Hubs in the use of digital twins as part of robotic inspections.  To maximise the impact of this research, a new cross-hub initiative has been launched on ‘Digital Twins and Digital Tissue for Robotic Inspections, Maintenance and Repair’. 

As well as enabling the sharing of state-of-the-art research between the hubs and fostering a collaborative community, it is also allowing researchers to continue their research during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. 

For example, NCNR researchers from the University of Lincoln have been able to control a mobile robot from the RAIN Hub at the University of Oxford.  Teams from the University of Manchester are working to control a mobile robot from the ORCA Hub at Heriot-Watt University as well as robot manipulators from the FAIRSPACE Hub at the University of Edinburgh.

This video showcases some of the cutting-edge research which forms the foundation of the cross-hub initiative.

ISCF Robots for a Safer World – Cross-Hub Activities on Digital Twins for Robotic IMR

Robotic inspection of active sites at Dounreay

The RAIN Hub has successfully trialled a robot in an active deployment at the Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) nuclear reactor research facility, now in the process of decommissioning. RAIN’s remit is to develop robotic and AI solutions to meet user-led challenges in the nuclear industry. A team of RAIN researchers has been working with DSRL to understand where our technology might benefit them.

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Development of pipe inspection robot

Despite the COVID lockdown inhibiting lab access, RAIN PDRA Nick Castledine has been making great progress developing prototypes for a pipe inspection platform. Read on to hear more about his latest research progress. He also presented his work at one of the recent RAIN webinars.

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3D Mapping with handheld sensors at walking pace

In the film Prometheus (2012) a team of astronauts explored the underground lair of the mysterious “Engineers” and used a flying device to quickly map the environment. Slightly less mysterious engineers in Oxford Robotics Institute have developed a handheld mapping device capable of mapping large facilities at walking speed.

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RACE shares robotics expertise

Building networks between research and industry is a fundamental principle of the RAIN Hub. Early meetings between RAIN and Rolls Royce (RR) explored ways in which RAIN could support the short and long-term objectives of RR. In addition to collaborative projects and robotic deployments, sharing the expertise that RACE has in both designing for robotics and the long-term integration of robotics into regular operations was identified as valuable to RR. To this end, a series of four workshops were held between RACE and (RR) over the summer.

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Remote Inspection Working Group (RIWG) trials in drummed waste store

As part of the RAIN project, the Remote Inspection Working Group (RIWG) has been developing a range of technologies to allow autonomous ground vehicles to characterise and monitor facilities that process and store waste from the nuclear industry. As part of this work, we have been developing a relationship with the UKAEA Waste Consignments team in Culham. In this relationship we have been working to understand the different requirements the UKAEA team have for autonomous systems in monitoring and managing temporarily stored waste, and helping them understand the technology currently under development in the RAIN consortium. As part of this process, UKAEA have allowed us to trial various robotic inspection systems in their low hazard drummed waste store in Culham.

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HRI – Human Robot Interaction

HRI – Human Robot Interaction – is one of five key research themes within the RAIN Hub. This subject connects human beings with the mechanised tools that could allow us to work more safely and efficiently. The importance of HRI comes down to a simple concept; the kit can be as fancy as you like but it needs to be easy to use otherwise people won’t want to use it. As one of our underlying research themes, HRI underpins all of the research that is done as part of the three working groups. However, it has not been such a visible focus of our work as the Remote Handling, Remote Inspection and Safety Case challenge areas. External review of RAIN’s progress highlighted this as something to improve; so here we outline some of the recent work in HRI.

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RAIN meets with industry

Our mission is to develop Robotics and AI solutions to industry-led challenge owners. Since even before the RAIN Hub formed, we have regularly engaged with the nuclear supply chain, operators and challenge owners to really inform our research.

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