Robots in the Maritime Industry – Cost Effective, Safe, Environment Friendly – Part 3

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Firefighting Robots – Humanoid robots may soon be joining the ranks of the U.S. Navy as firefighters. A researcher at Worchester Polytechnic Institute has been awarded nearly USD 600,000 to develop an algorithm to help firefighting robots navigate the complex environment of a ship.

Enabling an autonomous robot with the capabilities to put out fires would relieve Navy personnel of a dangerous burden, and help to extinguish fires in the early stages before they become catastrophic. SAFFiR – Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot – is five-foot, 10-inches tall, and weighs roughly 140 pounds. During a 2014 three-day demonstration, Virginia Tech students proved that SAFFiR could locate and walk to a fire, pick up a hose, and douse the flames in water. This allows the robot to fight fire shoulder-to-shoulder with human beings. However, the robot would have to be better modified to be able to move seamlessly around the curves and edges of ships. It is still in the developing phase but poised to be an effective solution to fires on board.

Image Courtesy: daily mail.co.uk

Now, with USD 600,000 awarded to WPI researchers, the robot may get an upgrade, with a motion planning algorithm to improve its capabilities. The new software will allow for a more complex set of motions.

Robots against Piracy – Piracy is one of the biggest issues in the maritime sector causing operators and owners millions of dollars to secure their operations. It not only leads to monetary losses but often, the loss of precious human lives. Robotics against piracy is a developing field and promises readiness, awareness and security through preemptive measures. Technological developments in this direction are not just essential but also, desperately needed.

Image Courtesy: Recon Robotics

Recon Robotics’ Throwbot® XT is, pound-for-pound, the most versatile, robust, stealthy and easy-to-deploy tactical robot system in the world. Inherently water and dust resistant, the Throwbot XT is a personal sensor system for tactical operators. It weighs just 1.2lbs (540g) and can be thrown up to 120 feet (36m). The sensor is also exceptionally quiet (operating at just 22 decibels) and is equipped with an infrared optical system that activates automatically when the ambient light is low, enabling the operator to see in complete darkness.

Once deployed, the micro-robot can be directed by the operator to quietly move through a structure and transmit video and audio to the handheld Operator Control Unit II (OCU II). These stealth capabilities can be utilised to locate armed subjects, confirm the presence of hostages or innocent civilians, listen in on conversations, and reveal the layout of rooms – information that can save lives and increase the success of high-risk operations.

The robot may be purchased with or without audio (listening) capabilities, or upgraded to listening-enabled at a later date. The Throwbot XT may also be specified in any of three predetermined transmitting frequencies, enabling operators to use up to three robots in the same environment at the same time.

Robots for Offshore Operations – Russian developers have launched a project for an integrated marine robotic system of anthropomorphic type for offshore operations, that will be presented by MariNet, the National Technological Initiative (NTI) working group.

Image Courtesy: safety4sea.com

One of the developers, OJSC Scientific Production Association ‘Android Techniques’ has proposed an underwater complex of anthropomorphic type under the heading Offshore Robotics.”

Under this project, the integrated maritime robotic system provides the interaction of underwater, surface and air unmanned vehicles, while the Intellectual Information Management System (IMS) allows an operator to simplify and automate the behaviour control of robots.

With the IMS, the operator can develop a mission, test it, programme the functioning of each robot, monitor the process execution and the technical condition of the elements of the complex robotic system, collect and process the incoming data, quickly correct the actions or change the mission completely.

While robotics in the maritime industry is a fast-developing phenomenon, it is still a long way before these robots replace their human counterparts. The fear is that robots will completely replace human beings in tasks as they are faster, more accurate, do not have safety concerns and do not get tired. However, the human workforce of the maritime sector can rest easy as these robots are not being developed as a replacement to the labour force but merely, as an aid to them to cope with the ever-expanding industry.

Robotics News Feature, November 8

By Priyanka Ann Saini