Both global and EU shipping fleet continues to grow. Over 3 billion tonnes of goods are handled in the EU, as well as the movement of over 300 million people, and the sector employs more than 2.5 million people in the EU. Whilst shipping is one of the cleanest forms of transportation, the fouling of ships reduces efficiency and increases the consumption of fuel burnt. Vessel safety has improved in recent years; however structural failures continue to occur. Therefore any system which is capable of continuously monitoring the integrity of the vessel's hull will provide a valuable operational tool.
HISMAR is intended to be a multifunctional robotic platform, which will offer the option to perform specific inspection or maintenance tasks, such as structural integrity monitoring of the ship's hull or carrying out cleaning. This project offered a means to undertake hull inspection and maintenance effectively and efficiently, thereby extending the safe working life of the vessel.
The project was highly relevant to the EU Maritime Policy and thereby EU business and society. The improved environmental performance and safety would support shipping operators through reduced fuel, insurance and other operating costs. The project would provide improved safety, reduced shipping costs, reduced emissions and employment opportunities, all of benefit to society.
Mission Statement: To design, develop and build a working self navigating robotic prototype for the purpose of autonomous hull cleaning and inspection of ocean going commercial and military vessels.
The key objectives of the project were:
- To develop a multipurpose robotic platform for mapping a vessels external profile to allow repeatable and safe navigation of its surface.
- To develop optical and magnetic sensing devices for accurate dead reckoning positioning of a robotic platform traversing the surface of a ship's hull.
- To develop platform 'plug in' functional modules to enable surveying of hull structural integrity and to carry out cleaning of the ship hull.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships by providing a tool to maintain low hull resistance through continuous in-water cleaning.
- Reduce the likelihood of vessel structure failure by providing a tool to monitor hull structural integrity continuously without dry-docking.
The work performed involved six technical work packages, one work package relating to intellectual property rights (IPRs), dissemination and exploitation and one work package relating to project and task management.
The first work package provided the consortium with a clear understanding of the technology, equipment and techniques needed for the project. End user requirements were established and a cost benefit analysis undertaken. This was a key achievement for this period of the project as a clear understanding of the technology and the customer needs was essential before any detailed design was undertaken.
The second work package involved the design, construction, testing and performance analysis of the navigational sensory system consisting of the magnetic landmark recognition system (MLRS) and the optical dead reckoning system (ODRS). The magnetic attachment system and drive system were designed, manufactured and assembled. The control architecture development was also completed. Finally, the drive and attachment systems were tested in terms of their individual performance and also their interactions.
The design and construction of the cleaning module was completed along with the hull structural integrity module. The hull inspection module incorporates cameras to perform the visual inspection of the hull whilst thickness measurements are undertaken by the MLRS using magnetic flux leakage (MFL) readings.
Finally, the last technical work package involved the integration of the components into a fully operational prototype, followed by laboratory and field testing and performance analysis.
Key achievements and end results were:
- Technical end user requirements of the project were identified and a cost benefit analysis completed.
- Development of the magnetic and optical sensory navigation system.
- Intelligent navigational system prototype developed.
- Successful construction, testing and integration of the drive and attachment system
- Completion of the cleaning and structural integrity modules.
- System testing and performance analysis.
- Ongoing exploitation of IPR and opportunities for dissemination and commercialisation.
- Successful project and task management in order to ensure successful project delivery.;
The project contributed to the development of new knowledge and state-of-theart. There are several novel features of the project including the use of magnetic sensors and optical technology in relation to the navigation of a robotic vehicle in an underwater environment for landmark recognition.
Another area of novelty is the intelligent mapping, with the construction of a unique structural map for each vessel and that being stored and used to navigate around the surface of the vessel.
The state-of-the-art knowledge has been protected under a patent and it's exploitation is being managed as part of the exploitation strategy.
HISMAR is intended to be a multifunctional robotic platform which will offer the option to perform specific inspection or maintenance tasks such as structural integrity monitoring of the ship's hull or carrying out cleaning. The robot offers a means to effectively undertake hull inspection and maintenance thereby ensuring minimal vessel drag and improved propulsion efficiency. The hull navigation dead reckoning position system uses optical technology to track two-dimensional movement over the hull surface. To obtain absolute position measurement, known hull features are used to update the current tracked position using a magnetic sensing system. By saturating the hull with a localised magnetic field, Hall Effect sensors detect subsurface strengthening struts and other hull structural features, which are used as unique landmarks. With a combination of magnetic and optical sensors, a map of the structure of the vessel can be built, stored and recalled to allow navigation over the hull surface. The robotic platform can complete its tasks whilst in port, at anchor or in dry-dock.