Oxford Robotics Institute demonstrates latest research at ORCA Robotics Hub

Hub aims to develop robotics and AI for extreme environments, especifically offshore energy

In a cold, wet week at the beginning of October, a team from the Oxford Robotics Institute (ORI) headed north to Blyth, near Newcastle, for the ORCA Hub demonstrations. A large warehouse, normally used for testing off-shore wind turbines, hosted teams from a number of different universities, all keen to demonstrate their advances in research in the last 12 months.

The ORCA Robotics Hub is funded by the UK’s Industry Strategic Challenge Fund (ISCF) to develop industrially relevant robotics and AI for extreme environments, specifically the offshore energy domain. The trials were attended by over 50 industrial partners from across the offshore industry.

The ORI team took part in three demonstrations. Firstly an autonomous inspection mission had ANYmal follow a pre-determined route through the facility, using the on-board cameras, LIDAR and thermal cameras to survey a series of dials and targets of interest. ANYmal is a 35kg torque-controlled quadruped specifically designed to be rugged and to be used in the field for industrial inspections. The autonomous mission was overseen but not tele-operated from a remote base station, indicative of how such a platform might operate in a remote off-shore platform or facility.

The second demonstration showed how the system can adapt and replan when faced with unexpected change. A high level planner chose a route to an inspection target which was optimised for speed (it did this by choosing to operate in areas where the faster trotting gait was deemed appropriate). However, when this path was blocked, the robot was autonomously able to replan and take a different route while switching locomotion gaits.

The final demonstration was a proof of concept for a prototype hand-held scanner which was able to easily map the warehouse and surrounding area. It utilises the same sensors and mapping technology as the ANYmal, and could be used to provide maps for the ANYmal to operate in, in future.

Overall the trials and demos ran very smoothly. The growth in the ORCA Hub in the past 12 months, as well as the excitement for all the showcased technology clearly showed the interest in these avenues of research.

To see videos of the demonstrations, visit the ORI website

 

Reproduced by kind permission of the Oxford Robotics Institute.

ANYmal

A map produced by the handheld sensor

Over 100 researchers were joined by 50 representatives from industry ©ORCA Hub