This challenge, with an investment of up to £112 million, focuses on research and innovation in advanced robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) to create a safer working world.
Many of these new technologies are operating in extreme and challenging environments which can be dangerous to work in or hard to reach, such as nuclear power, offshore energy and space-based activity. The challenge is also addressing new needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as robotic sanitising of care facilities.
The funding is being invested in two areas:
- collaborative research and development demonstrator projects designed and led by UK companies, to encourage business growth by improving robotics and AI capabilities, and testing their ideas in real-world extreme environments
- four research hubs for robotics investigating extreme environments were created with a £44.5 million government investment, plus additional funding from industry and commercial partners.
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Funded and announced projects
Investments under this challenge so far have included:
Research hubs for robotics
The four hubs are active nationwide across a large number of partners with the leads based at University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, Herriot-Watt University and the University of Surrey:
- ORCA Hub (Heriot-Watt University)
- FAIR-SPACE Hub (University of Surrey)
- National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (University of Birmingham)
- RAIN Hub (University of Manchester).
Drones to maintain offshore wind farms
BladeBUG Limited is developing a unique walking robotic device designed to remotely perform detailed inspection, maintenance and repair of wind turbine blades, offering significant health and safety benefits over rope access technicians. The robot utilises multiple legs with vacuum cups, and can be rapidly deployed and retrieved, minimising turbine losses.
Exploring underground environments
Prometheus looks at the inspection and exploration of underground environments, which can only be accessed through 140-150mm boreholes. The robots will inspect subterranean mines underneath the rail network and other infrastructure, which humans cannot reach, are dark, lack GPS and can be partially flooded.
Last updated: 24 May 2021