The Bristol University of the West of England (UWE) in the UK has received £4.6m as part of a consortium to design and build the next generation of robots for use in hazardous environments.
UWE said that, over the next five years, researchers will develop prototype robots with improved power, sensing, communications and processing capabilities to sort and segregate waste materials.
UWE Bristol and the BRL, will contribute to the project alongside researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Birmingham as well as industrial partners Sellafield Ltd, EDF Energy, UKAEA and NuGen. University of Manchester Professor Barry Lennox, who is leading the project, noted: “This programme of work will enable us to fundamentally improve Robotic and Autonomous Systems capabilities, allowing technologies to be reliably deployed into harsh environments, keeping humans away from the dangers of radiation.”
As well as improving on the limitations of current technology, which includes relatively straightforward tasks such as turning valves, navigating staircases and moving over rough terrain – the researchers will develop systems which are able to address issues around grasping and manipulation, computer vision and perception. The new robots will also be autonomous – able to operate without direct supervision by humans.