One of the key areas where we’ll look to robots will be extreme environments where it’s dangerous or impossible for humans to go. Several projects recently received funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund as part of the government’s £93 million programme for robotics and AI in extreme environments.
The programme aims to develop robotic solutions in industries such as off-shore and nuclear energy, space and deep mining, to increase productivity and open up new cross-disciplinary opportunities. As part of this programme Innovate UK is funding £51m of collaborative R&D and demonstrator projects. One of the projects includes a look at the technical feasibility of manufacturing in space by enabling the in-orbit manufacture of replacement parts and tools for aircraft; meanwhile robots under ice focuses on the use of autonomous submarines to determine ice hazard risks for shipping and energy installations in the arctic. Another project will integrate the use of drones for inspection of offshore wind farms with the use of autonomous surface vessels, creating a system which will automatically deploy and recover the inspection drones.