Equipped with a customised sensorhead, a four-legged robotic platform has inspected an offshore convertor platform operated by transmission system operator TenneT, demonstrating the potential of unmanned technology in the offshore wind industry.
The project, undertaken in September 2018, used an ‘ANYmal’ autonomous unit provided by ANYbotics in Zurich, Switzerland.
Over the week it was on the convertor platform, the robot completed a number of tasks, and is said to be the world’s first autonomous offshore robot.
ANYbotics partnered with TenneT to evaluate the potential benefits of robotic inspection and maintenance on offshore platforms. They believe a mobile robot such as ANYmal can help to reduce the risk of an interruption to the safe functioning of the platform, and potentially reduce costs.
Using an autonomous navigation system, ANYmal can be tasked to undertake routine inspections to monitor machine operations, obtain read-outs of sensory equipment and detect thermal hot-spots and oil or water leakage.
ANYmal can be remotely operated from an onshore control centre for TenneT to receive real-time information through the robot’s onboard visual and thermal cameras, microphones and gas detection sensors.
Before the robot was deployed on the platform, an ANYbotics field team underwent rigorous safety training including helicopter escape and survival. After being taken on a guided tour of the platform to map it in 3D and determine the position of inspection points, the robot autonomously navigated its way around the platform and processed inspection protocols. A typical fully autonomous mission included 16 inspection points such as gauges, levers, oil and water levels and various visual and thermal measurements.
ANYbotics designed the ANYmal to be able to operate autonomously in challenging terrain and interact safely with the environment. It believes it has many potential industrial applications. The company said its legs “allow it to crawl, walk, jump, climb and carry.”
At the heart of the robot is ANYdrive, a compliant robotic joint for controlled dynamic interaction with the environment. The joint incorporates sensors and intelligence in a compact lightweight device to satisfy advanced motion and force control requirements.