Robotic system being developed to tackle subsea biofouling of marine energy systems

The second phase has been launched of an Innovate UK project to develop an automated fouling management system for the marine energy industry.

The 24-month RoBFMS (Robots to Inspect, Maintain and Repair in Extreme and Challenging Environments) project will develop an automated robotic system to monitor, identify and clean biofouling from subsea structures. This phase will build on the learning gained from the development of a prototype robot in phase 1.

Biofouling, the settlement and growth of organisms on submerged structures, is a major challenge for the marine renewable energy sector. Biofouling can decrease the efficiency of energy generation and lead to corrosion, which can reduce the survivability of technologies.

Led by Innovative Technology & Science Ltd (InnoTecUK), the project consortium brings together the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and Brunel University London to explore and define the marine renewable energy sector’s requirements of cleaning hardware in tackling biofouling.

The RoBFMS system will consist of sensors, navigation systems and camera equipment to monitor and detect fouling on submerged structures. RoBFMS will also be capable of identifying defects within technologies in environments where human intervention presents high safety and cost concerns.

The fully functional system will contain cleaning systems that can remove biofouling through the deployment of a focused high-power ultrasonic cleaning technique.

“Following a successful prototype phase, InnoTecUK are delighted to have received further research funding to work collaboratively with BUL and EMEC to provide innovative, safe and cost-effective solutions for off-shore robotic inspection and maintenance,” said Katie Hiscock, RoBFMS project manager from InnoTecUK. “We are excited with the developments and progress made so far and are keen to exploit the commercial benefits our system will bring to a host of sectors working within the marine environment.”

The robot is expected to be deployed for real sea testing on marine energy technologies at EMEC’s test sites in Orkney, off the north coast of Scotland, in spring 2020.

This project was funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund under Innovate UK’s “Demonstrator for robotics and AI in extreme and challenging environments; phase 2” competition.

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