Robotic system to tackle subsea biofouling will be tested in Orkney at Periscope partner EMEC

16 September 2019 - Published by Stig Marthinsen

The second phase of an Innovate UK project has been launched to develop an automated fouling management system for the marine energy industry.

The 24-month RoBFMS (Robots to Inspect, Maintain and Repair in Extreme and Challenging Environments) project will develop an automated robotic system to monitor, identify and clean biofouling from subsea structures, building on the learning gained from the development of a prototype robot in phase 1.

Led by Innovative Technology & Science Ltd (InnoTecUK), the project consortium brings together Periscope partner EMEC and Brunel University London, to explore and define the marine renewable energy (MRE) sector’s requirements of cleaning hardware in tackling biofouling.

Biofouling is the settlement and growth of organisms on submerged structures and is a major challenge for the MRE sector. The presence of biofouling can decrease the efficiency of energy generation and lead to corrosion which can reduce the survivability of technologies.

The RoBFMS system will consist of a variety of sensors, navigation systems and camera equipment in order to monitor and detect fouling on submerged structures. RoBFMS will also be capable of identifying defects within technologies in environments where human intervention presents high safety and cost concerns.

The fully functional system will contain cleaning systems which will be able to remove biofouling through the deployment of a focused high-power ultrasonic cleaning technique.

The robot is expected to be deployed for real sea testing on marine energy technologies at EMEC’s test sites in Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland, in Spring 2020.

The project consortium is keen to explore opportunities on a national and international level where the RoBFMS system could address innovative solutions to companies within the marine industry on operations and maintenance issues.

Katie Hiscock, RoBFMS Project Manager from InnoTecUK said:

“Following a successful prototype phase, InnoTecUK are delighted to have received further research funding to work collaboratively with BUL and EMEC to provide innovative, safe and cost-effective solutions for off-shore robotic inspection and maintenance.

"We are excited with the developments and progress made so far and are keen to exploit the commercial benefits our system will bring to a host of sectors working within the marine environment.”

This project was funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund under Innovate UK’s ‘Demonstrator for robotics and AI in extreme and challenging environments; phase 2’ competition. Project reference number 104826. Innovate UK is a part of UK Research and Innovation.

Picture: © InnoTecUK