The Innovate UK-funded MIMRee (Multi-Platform Inspection, Maintenance and Repair in Extreme Environments) is an ambitious two-year project bringing in expertise from the fields of robotics, non-destructive testing, artificial intelligence, space mission planning, marine and aerial engineering and nanobiotechnology.

The project consists of eight industry and academic partners, with Plant Integrity being the leader, followed by Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult to provide the knowledge on the offshore industry, while also present the MIMRee system.

Martin Bourton, Principal Project Leader at Plant Integrity, commented

The moment when an autonomous mothership and robotic crew sail in UK waters will be a world-first – and likely a game-changer for the offshore, oil and gas and defence industries too.

Additionally, those taking part in the project either by providing knowledge and expertise, or providing the technological means are Thales’ Halcyon autonomous vessel, a drone system provided by the University of Bristol’s Dr Tom Richardson, and the six-legged crawling repair robot BladeBUG, invented by entrepreneur Chris Cieslak.

Also, The University of Manchester’s Dr. Simon Watson will lead development of a system for transporting, deploying and retrieving the blade crawler, and Dr. Sara Bernardini of Royal Holloway University of London will lead creation of the human-machine interface that will allow personnel located onshore to analyze the data transmitted by MIMRee and intervene as necessary.

According to ORE's press release, in the possibility that the project is successful, it would initiate the digitalization in the offshore industry, by mapping and scanning wind turbine blades, and understanding when the robots should be deployed.

Onboard drones will take off from the mother ship to conduct visual and hyperspectral imaging inspection of the blades and transport crawling robots on to the blade to effect repairs using a robotic arm for resurfacing the blades (created bespoke by Dr. Sina Sareh’s team at the Royal College of Art Robotics Laboratory). An electronic skin, developed by high-tech start-up Wootzano, will ‘feel’ the surface and collect a deeper level of data on the blade surface structure.

Chris Hill, ORE Catapult’s Operational Performance Director, added

This project aligns closely with the UK Government’s latest Offshore Wind Sector Deal and wider Industrial Strategy and will position the UK as a world leader in robotics and autonomous systems development, as well as highlighting a route to market for innovators in robotics, data and digitalisation services.

Concluding, the eight participants of the project are:

  1. Plant Integrity Ltd
  2. Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
  3. Thales
  4. Wootzano Ltd
  5. The University of Bristol
  6. The University of Manchester
  7. Royal Holloway, The University of London
  8. The Royal College of Art