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Autonomous Robotic Inspection and Maintenance on Ship Hulls and Storage Tanks

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BugWright2 (Autonomous Robotic Inspection and Maintenance on Ship Hulls and Storage Tanks)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-03-31

Nowadays, outer hull service/inspection and maintenance is mostly done at dry dock, either manually or with a Remote Automated System. In this condition, complete hull-thickness measurements by discrete sampling account for 5-8 days of work (source: AASA). Similarly, hull cleaning is done at quay but typically requires 8 days of down time corresponding to a loss of 100 to 200 k€. With its latest available technology, Roboplanet evaluates that the servicing of a 280m ship with three Remote Automated Systems would take about 10 hours and require 6 to 7 trained employees to operate all the platforms. Nevertheless, the robustness and reliability of Autonomous Robotic Systems has not yet been demonstrated enough to convince owners and end-users of their full potential in cost and time savings.

That is why a future where teams of robots would be inspecting or cleaning the hull while the ship is at quay, in the harbour, loading its new cargo is our goal. Verifying the ship structural soundness and cleaning its hull would cost minimal downtime if any, leading to safer ships and even improved competitiveness. Cleaner ship hulls would also result in 5% to 10% (30% in extreme cases) reduction in fuel consumption, which roughly corresponds to saving half a swimming pool of heavy fuel per return trip across the Atlantic. This would have obvious impact on the transport competitivity and on the environment (marine pollution) if generalized across all the fleet, and in particular to the 18 000 vessels larger than 25 000 tons. Just in this category, savings of the order of a 30 000 swimming pools of fuel per year could be considered.
BugWright2’s objective is to tackle this issue.

The goal of BugWright2 is to achieve scientific and technical excellence by going beyond the current state of the art regarding the inspection of large structures with a heterogeneous team of robots operating on and around the inspected hull, in and above the water. A key ambition of BugWright2’s is to build an experimental commercial inspection and cleaning service, offered at three European sites. This service will be a large-scale demonstrator allowing end-users to get acquainted with robotic inspection technologies, and allowing R&D teams to expose their step changes in technological readiness through demonstration on real deployments. BugWright2 focuses on unlocking the potential of the robotic ship hull inspection market, to provide high-quality visual and acoustic inspection of these structures or to provide an autonomous cleaning service. And in the aim to make infrastructure and industries more sustainable and respectful of the environment.
Milestone 1 is complete; we are currently working on Milestone 2 (Tele-operated survey). Milestone 3 (Integrated localisation) stems from MS2 and cannot start without MS2 being completed. The project is facing delays due to covid-19 and especially the incapacity to go on site for most partners.

So far, management structures are in place and website and development repository are operational. First requirements analysis and use cases complete, first specifications and integration plan available, pilot specifications and integration plan available, simulation environment available and off-the-shelf robots have been delivered to the end-users.

However, some tasks could not be completed due to the inability for partners to access their work place. End-users cannot be trained to operate the inspection system. End-users cannot start integrating tele-operated surveys in their workflow. Off-the-shelf localisation system cannot be integrate into the pilot robots. End-users cannot be trained on the localisation systems. End-users cannot use robots with localisation capabilities in tele-operated mode. Localised inspection results are not available.
BugWright2 intends to go beyond the state of the art on the topic of autonomous navigation for inspection crawlers, interpretation of ultrasonic inspection data, autonomous aerial and underwater visual inspection, heterogeneous multi-robot mission planning and immersive 3D user interfaces for large scale system monitoring. All these innovations, combined together, will support the implementation of a large-scale pilot that will demonstrate to end-users that robotic operations on a vessel hull are valuable and efficient.

BugWrigh2 partners are also working on developing a regulatory and policy blueprint. It will facilitates the use of autonomous robotics to the task of visual inspection and hull cleaning with a view to enhance climate change mitigation benefits derived from cleaner hulls. The blueprint will also look to the future by exploring labour law and market considerations as a result of the automation of traditional shipyard-tasks. This will contribute to making the European research and development industry world leading and highly competitive for robotics technology.

So far, discussions are underway between some partners in order to develop new services or technologies.
group photo during KOM
Logo BugWright2
2nd Virtual Integration week_demo_crawler
1st Virtual Integration week
KOM presentation WP5
2nd Virtual Integration week_demo_visualisation