11 April 2012
A UK-led European project is aiming to build truly intelligent autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) that can learn from their mistakes and adapt mid-mission to changing circumstances.
The three-year FP-7 PANDORA project gathers researchers from Heriot-Watt University and King’s College London alongside colleagues from Italy and Greece with industrial input from BP and SubSea7.
Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are the workhorses of offshore inspection, repair and maintenance. However, they require up to 6km of cable and the constant presence of a support boat, which is costly.
AUVs have long been seen as a desired piece of technology in offshore environments, however there are some inherent challenges.
Rather than trying to communicate with the robot as ROVs do, the solution is to delegate decision making to the AUV robot itself.
Such AUVs have been investigated for around 10 years now, with some models appearing commercially, although the technology is far from mature.
The goal at the end of the three years is to produce a prototype that can operate for up to 24 hours, dependent on power constraints and re-charging.