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Energy sector primed for robotics revolution

A ROBOTICS Roadmap launched in Canberra today is expected to help guide development of technologies that could boost profitability and safety in the Australian energy sector.

Energy sector primed for robotics revolution One of Woodside's robonauts in action

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The first-of-its-kind roadmap was developed by the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision following consultation with leaders in academia, industry and government through submissions and workshops held in late 2017.
 
In a section on the resources industry, the report notes that remote locations create numerous challenges in service delivery, freight distribution and telecommunications, many of which can be solved by application of robotics technologies.
 
The roadmap also highlights the capacity to increase the safety record of operations and bring a greater share of Australia's exploration spending back within its terrestrial and maritime borders, with companies having increasingly chased less technically risky propositions elsewhere in recent years.
 
It notes that future operations will move toward complete autonomy, including optimised and decentralised cooperative robotics systems that have less reliance on a control room, cycle determination and segmentation for productivity monitoring, 3D printing of infrastructure and use of small-scale ‘nano' robots for resource extraction.
 
The report focuses on the particular capacities of the energy sector by using the case study of Woodside Petroleum.
 
It notes that Woodside took delivery of one of NASA's anthropomorphic ‘robonauts' in 2017 on a five-year deployment.
 
The robonauts complement Woodside's own robotics program, including machines that are capable of conducting tele-operated and semi-autonomous patrols and inspections suggested by operational staff, with the first trial taking place at the Pluto project.
 
"In addition to performing repetitive or high-risk tasks, the robots are also acting as mobile sensor platforms - streaming visual, thermal, ultrasonic, and light detection and ranging data into Woodside's existing cognitive and analytics programs," the roadmap notes.
 
"The data gathered is processed and sent to operations and maintenance teams to assist them in identifying equipment faults, errors or where capacity improvements exist."
 
ACRV CEO Dr Sue Keay said the roadmap was a first step towards a national strategy to invest in robotic technology to create and support a vibrant economy, community and nation.
 
"Australia's vast distances and harsh conditions result in a range of challenges in service delivery, freight distribution and telecommunications," she said, highlighting the nation's role as a testbed for advanced mining and energy equipment.
 
"Australia is in a unique position to lead the world in the development and implementation of robotic technology in mining and resources that may also be applied to space exploration."
 
The links between these sectors were highlighted in a recent report out from ACIL Allen, assessing Western Australia's suitability to host the proposed Australian Space Agency.
 
"Western Australia hosts substantial capability in the development and use of space derived applications and services," it noted. 
 
"A major competitive advantage lies in applications in agriculture, mining, offshore oil and gas and remote operations and robotics."
 
Australia is ranked 18th in the world for global automation by the International Federation of Robotics. 

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