The feasibility study on the application of advanced robotics (AR) to underwater work was undertaken by UEG, the Offshore and Underwater Engineering Group of CIRIA, between May 1986 and July 1987 on behalf of the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) It was one of a number of DTI studies in separate application areas forming part of a nationally coordinated initiative to develop UK capabilities in AR through collaborative ventures For the purpose of the initiative, the term ‘advanced robotics’ covers devices which are independently mobile and are able to make decisions about how to proceed with the tasks required.

The feasibility study report completes stage one of a three-stage process envisaged by the DTI for the development of an autonomous device (or devices) within each industry area

Stage 1 A feasibility study fully funded by DTI to identify and assess potential applications and to recommend a preferred project on the basis of technical and market factors

Stage 2 A project definition study (PDS), with funding shared by DTI and interested non-government organizations, to produce a proposal for an industrial development project including R and D requirements, design schematics, a detailed market analysis, work share proposals, cost … estimates, and a detailed project plan

Stage 3 An industrial development project, also with shared DTI/Industry funding, to develop, through one or more stages, an advanced robotic device (or devices)

This study (Stage 1) has been managed and coordinated by UEG with main subcontractor assistance being provided by Slingsby Engineering Limited, on technical appraisal and concept development, and Hollobone Hibbert & Associates Limited for the market related aspects In addition, specialist input on specific areas has been provided by Heriot-Watt University, W D Loth and Co Ltd and Subsea Developments Limited.

The study was steered by a national Underwater Collaborative Group comprising industrial, academic and government representatives of the underwater field and representatives from other technology fields relevant to the development of an advanced robotic underwater device (e g robotics, computing, artificial intelligence) Input has been provided by group members both at formal progress meetings and individually by interview and correspondence.

IDENTIFICATION AND ASSESSMENT OF POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS

The initial approach to the study was to identify all conceivable underwater operations based upon operational areas agreed by the Underwater Collaborative Group These areas are Oil and gas production system, pipelines, salvage, ships and floating objects, underwater food resources, mid-water operations, general seabed operations, inshore/inland operations, and contaminated environments

The main operations identified within these areas, some of which are common to a number of them, were Exploration, construction/installation/hook-up, intervention/cleaning and inspection, maintenance and repair, demolition/removal of structures, survey, search, hull/cargo recovery, research/survey/catch/processing/farming of underwater food resources, environmental monitoring, marine sciences research, waste disposal and monitoring, mineral extraction, and excavation/dredging

Each operation, 31 in all, was then defined in terms of the specific tasks involved plus the additional aspects of special equipment used, mission duration, power requirement, task complexity and working environment each of which needs to be taken into consideration in determining operational suitability for AR development

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