Mobile robots for offshore inspection and manipulation - presentation of a first prototype
This paper analyzes the potential to apply mobile service robots in offshore oil and gas producing environments. The required hardware and software components and abilities of such a mobile offshore inspection and manipulation robot are presented in this paper. Possible applications of mobile service robots in an offshore environment range from simple visual inspection tasks to physical intervention with the process equipment, e.g. for sample taking, valve turning, cleaning up minor obstructions, and operating control panels. The first prototype of a mobile offshore inspection robot is equipped with a robotic arm which carries a camera for visual inspection as well as various application sensors such as a microphone, gas and fire sensors. It is able of both, remote and autonomous inspection of industrial process equipment. In automatic mode the robot autonomously executes preprogrammed inspection tasks. The results of all inspection tasks are saved to a database and can be reviewed by the responsible operator in the central control room at any time. The evaluation of the first autonomous mobile robot that has ever been operated in offshore environments has proven the applicability of mobile robotics to offshore environments. Different types of inspection tasks (visual and acoustic inspection, gas measuring) have been programmed to and executed by the robot successfully without ever jeopardizing the safety of the platform or the platform personnel. The application of mobile robotics in offshore environments can reduce the level of manual human intervention required to operate a production facility thereby increasing the efficiency of the workforce, improving safety and working conditions, and improving the production economics. The successful evaluation of the first realization of a mobile inspection and manipulation robot has thus levelled the ground for future mobile robot installations in offshore environments.