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Robot and workers in a mine

Robots for a safer world


The Oxford Robotics Institute has been awarded £725,000 to undertake research for the development of new technologies to operate in extreme and challenging environments.

Industrial environments can be hazardous for workers. In 2019/20, 111 UK workers died, and 693,000 workers reported they had suffered a non-fatal injury at work, imposing a cost of more than £16 billion on the UK economy.

The Oxford Robotics Institute (ORI) has been awarded £725,000 to extend their involvement in the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to undertake research for the development of new technologies to operate in extreme and challenging environments. These are environments which are dangerous to work in, or hard to reach, such as those found in the nuclear power and offshore energy industries.

ORI will continue to collaborate with two research hubs (originally funded in 2018) and one new Innovate UK project to achieve this:

  • Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets (ORCA)
  • Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Nuclear (RAIN)
  • AutoInspect - Autonomous Inspection of Industrial Facilities

The research output from these projects will be leveraged for use in other industrial sectors, such as agriculture, construction, logistics and healthcare.

The ORCA Hub (lead by Prof. Yvan Petillot of Heriot-Watt University) aims to use robotic systems and artificial intelligence to revolutionise asset integrity management for the offshore energy sector, by providing remote solutions that can be readily integrated with existing and future assets and sensors, and that can operate and interact safely in autonomous or semi-autonomous modes in complex and cluttered environments.

ORI’s contribution to this programme of research focuses on the following areas:

1) Manipulation with the ANYbotics ANYmal: Developing world-leading technologies for improving the inspection and manipulation capabilities of quadruped platforms, such as the ANYmal, and integrating online perception feedback. Video of initial work

2) Quadruped Inspection and Exploration: Developing new cross-platform anomaly detection and extending ORI’s mapping and autonomy framework to work with new platforms, such as the market-leading Spot robot. Video of initial work

3) Aerial Mapping and Inspection: Developing a novel large-scale aerial adaptive-resolution mapping solution that will demonstrate 3D LIDAR/Vision mapping in a closed loop with a heavy-duty drone. Video of initial work

Other partners in ORCA include Heriot-Watt University, Imperial College London, Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool.

For more information see the full news item on the ORI website.


Photo courtesy of ORI student Matias Mattamala

Student profile: Nadja Yang