Effective Dexterous ROV Operations in Presence of Communications Latencies

DexROV will develop cost-effective technologies and methods that will enable subsea operations with fewer off-shore personnel while increasing the range, flexibility and complexity of operations that are possible.

Inspecting harsh environments and working in remote hazardous locations require perception, understanding and flexible interaction and response capabilities. Such resourcefulness has been demonstrated both remotely and in situ during the construction of the International Space Station, with Europe's participation. Frequently the value and necessity for a human in the loop has been demonstrated during ISS construction. The same goes with a range of demanding subsea operations, where professional divers are often requested to carry out demanding operations requiring dexterity. For instance wet arc welding techniques such as Shielded Metal Arc (SMAW). Commercial diving is however complex and expensive to organize and carry out, while being considered as a harsh and relatively risky activity (acute hazards such as decompression sickness, debris impacts, blocked access to surface, entanglements; but also long term consequences correlated to significant compressed air exposure). For these reasons ROV based operations are usually preferred to diver based operations, when technically feasible.

However today's ROVs have limited capabilities and are expensive to operate from off-shore vessels. They typically require an offshore crew consisting at least of: (1) an intendant, (2) an operator, (3) a navigator and often more staffs (due e.g. to work shifts). Furthermore, customer representatives often wish to be physically present offshore, in order to advise on, or to observe the course of the operations. Costs associated to the overall offshore logistics are high. In order to reduce the burden of operations, DexROV will develop and validate more cost and time efficient ROV operations, where manned support is to a large extent delocalized onshore (i.e. operating from a land based ROV control center).

Moreover DexROV will increase the number of opportunities to deploy ROVs: DexROV will develop advanced ROV perception, control and autonomous navigation capabilities, complemented by (1) compact (human arm dimensions) force feedback enabled manipulator arms and (2) dexterous end effectors. This will be used in combination with a novel remote haptics enabled operator supervision and control station providing an intuitive ROV control experience. Communication latencies (satellite link) between the onshore control center and the offshore operations will be mitigated by advanced machine learning techniques.

The long term vision is to enable onshore control of ROVs and dual arm manipulators without requiring divers or an extensive, permanent offshore support crew. The project will research and develop the innovative capabilities needed, integrate them, ensure compatibility (and synergy) with existing standards, and will validate the results in a realistic deepwater offshore trial at sea on a 1,300 m deep facility mock-up.

The project takes advantage of the extensive use of existing research and technology developments from the space industry, which is the core business of the coordinator (SPACEAPPS) as well as from the marine and subsea industry, which is the core business of 2 other partners (COMEX and GT), both of whom also have involvements in space activities and in the latest research in the field of underwater robotics.

Application Area - Human Machine Interaction
COMEX SA., Graal Tech s.r.l., Idiap Research Institute, Jacobs University Bremen, Interuniversity Center of Integrated Systems for the Marine Environment
Horizon 2020
Mar 01, 2015
Aug 31, 2018