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Project nautilUS: Bathyscaphic Robotic Monitoring Technology

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Project nautilUS is a UK government-funded initiative.

Our Aims

The Project nautilUS bathyscaphic robot will reduce the costs, danger and environmental and health and safety risks involved in inspections required by the American Petroleum Institute (API) industry standard for petrochemical storage tank periodic inspections and in particular for corrosion thinning of the tank floor.

The Vision

Project nautilUS will develop a small intrinsically safe robot to perform in-service inspection. The bathyscaphic robot will use active buoyancy control to hop around a tank and use an ultrasound probe to make measurements of floor thinning each time the robot lands and record data regarding location for post-processing after the robot is retrieved.

Project nautilUS - The Vision

The Consortium

The consortium is made up of four industry partners and one university. Project nautilUS brings together a multidisciplinary partnership with the experience and expertise to efficiently implement the work in addressing the skills needs of Project nautilUS, as well as to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project outcomes.

nautilUS - The Consortium

Included within our consortium are:

Internationally respected as a leading research and development house for condition monitoring technologies, Monition is constantly leading European and UK Government sponsored projects to drive innovation and to expand the application of monitoring techniques. Please note that Monition was acquired by Electrocomponents (RS) in 2019

Visit RS Maintenance Solutions website

InnoTecUK is a dynamic and progressive research and innovation company specialising in the development and commercialisation of novel solutions to overcome complex societal challenges.

Visit InnoTecUK's website

Sonomatic is a worldwide organisation whose expertise in ultrasonic inspection design, development and application, dates back more than 30 years to their roots in the nuclear sector. Today the company has widened its focus and provides proven yet pioneering services to customers in defence and power generation.

Visit Sonomatic's website

The LSBU mission is to be recognised as an enterprising civic university that addresses real world challenges. By 2020, we want to be London’s top modern university and our Corporate Strategy 2020–2025 sets out how we’ll achieve this vision

Visit the London South Bank University website

TWI (The Welding Institute) helps people and organisations all over the world maximise the performance of welding, joining and allied processes; and the resulting products and assets they create.

Visit the TWI website

The Design

The design aims to obtain the smallest possible footprint to allow entry via the smallest manholes of liquid storage tanks. For the robot to perform an inspection in an explosive and flammable environment, the robot operation must avoid sparking which can create an explosion in the tank due to heat and the presence of vapour.

Project nautilUS - The Design

Industry Sectors

The enabling breakthrough of Project nautilUS is that it allows a low cost, continuously deployed health monitor as opposed to often unnecessary and uneconomic periodic full coverage inspections and thus has the potential to capture a significant part of the market.

Market Awareness

We will focus initially on the specific market sector of refined petrochemical storage and move on to unrefined having the benefit of feedback from the least challenging application. Globally there are over 500,000 storage tanks of which almost one third are in Europe (166,000). Of these 40,000 are large petrochemical tanks.

Project nautilUS will have an impact both in the provision of new low cost testing methods allowing customers to drive down operational costs through preventative maintenance, and in reducing the cost and complexity in current testing practices (£10BN p.a. industry saving). It is common within the industry for major companies to outsource to specialist providers who supply services and specialist equipment tailored to specific customer needs.

Generally, the UK NDT industry has a small number of consolidated international players, with a pool of niche technology, products and service providers which are accessed opportunistically. Analysis of the industrial landscape reveals there are two main areas or gaps which have held back full exploitation of the benefits available from NDT: timely technology transfer of new techniques and market perception of the value of inspection in some quarters. For the future, there are two additional potential barriers: the need to maintain or grow investment in R&D and the increasing skills gap due to an ageing workforce and the need to adopt more advanced NDT technology. Project nautilUS surmounts these barriers.

The focus of UK activity in the petrochemical sector is on service provision and in supplying a ready market for new products  and providing a pathway for growth both from capturing market share and by creating new markets, in this case, for semi-permanently deployed low cost robots for statistical monitoring thus countering more costly competitors - primarily US e.g. Solex (MAVERICK), GE (ASSET). The main barriers to entry will be demonstrating  both standards compliance and efficacy of the system. The key focus of TWI’s work in the present project is to ensure the functional capabilities of Project nautilUS (statistical underwater structure monitoring) in pre-commercialisation demonstration activities.

Further information on nautilUS are available in these DesignSpark articles:

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