Engineering firm Forth, the company leading the creation of the pioneering Autonomous Aquatic Inspection and Intervention (A2I2), is now looking for partners to bring the working prototype of the product to the commercial stage following successful trials.
A2I2 is an intelligent, tetherless robot which is fitted with sonar technology to detect and avoid obstacles underwater and can be operated in hazardous environments, including in storage ponds on nuclear sites, from a safe, remote distance.
It is estimated the robot, which has been successfully tested during two trials at Forth’s Deep Recovery Facility in Cumbria, will save the UK subsea industry alone £75million, and will also significantly benefit the nuclear and oil and gas industries.
A2I2 was developed by a collaboration of companies from across the UK so it can be used near critical infrastructure. During recent trials at Forth’s wet test facility which, holding 1.2million litres of water, is one of the largest of its kind in the UK, the A2I2 successfully moved autonomously through the pond, avoided collisions, located items on the pond floor and relayed images which were able to be viewed, analysed and interpreted in real-time on screens nearby on dry land.
Chris Downham, programme manager at Forth, said: “A lot of hard work and endless amount of hours has gone into producing a working prototype of such an intelligent and pioneering piece of technology, and we are proud of the success of the trials. We have witnessed first hand what a groundbreaking piece of technology it is.
“A2I2 is built to withstand even the most hazardous environments, and this development will improve the health and safety for underwater work, with the machine being operated remotely from a safe distance.
“This technology will save the industry millions of pounds every year, and it will prove to be a real game changer in how efficiently work can be carried out across the world.
A2I2 has sonar technology which can detect and avoid obstacles while underwater, enabling the robots to be used near critical infrastructure.
In addition, Forth has developed an enabling Lilypad technology which provides launch and recovery, recharging and high bandwidth communications for the remotely operated vehicle.
The images detected by the robot are streamed on to a live feed with no delay to allow people to make crucial judgements in real time. Those operating the machine can then survey the same area at a later date and overlay the original image captured to see if they’ve successfully removed the asset or if more work to remove it is required.
A2I2 also comes with advanced automated software development tools to safety-critical, security-critical and business-critical systems developers. It has used these tools to develop high integrity, autonomous decision making, safety-critical software that enables the autonomous operation in accordance with regulatory requirements.
Working with the University of Manchester, the development team has created wireless underwater communication to eliminate the need for any tethers, allowing A2I2 to operate more freely in hazardous environments.
Forth is keen to hear from anybody who would like to assist in developing A2I2 and bring it to the commercial market.
Photo: Autonomous Aquatic Inspection and Intervention (A2I2), an intelligent underwater survey robot