The increasing competitiveness in marine operations creates a need for new system concepts that introduce high technology value added products, facilitate the processes involved and minimise the downtimes. The need, thus, lies not only in incorporating the technological means so far available, but in changing the way the corresponding authorities stand against the challenges at hand.
The objective of MINOAS was re-engineering of the overall vessel-inspection methodology, by introducing an innovative system concept that incorporates state of the art technologies, but at the same time formulating a new standardisation of the overall inspection process.
MINOAS set out to create the development of a new infrastructure that substitutes human personnel by high locomotion enabled robots. It 'teleported' the human inspector from the vessel's hold to a control room with virtual reality properties.
The human's perceptual abilities are enhanced through the utilisation of high-resolution tools (e.g. sensors) and are augmented through the parallel processing property provided by MINOAS. Following the centralised control scheme adopted in similar distributed control methodologies (SCADA), the number and the sequence of the tasks required is rearranged and the overall inspection procedure is brought in alignment with the current tendency adopted in similar inspection, exploration and surveillance tasks.
MINOAS is a new system concept that aims to formulate an integrated product that will be straightforwardly applied to the inspection related procedures of the maritime industry. This system concept does not only lie in the implementation of existing technology to a new application field, but in creating a new environment for the human personnel related to these tasks. The data acquisition tasks (DAQ) will be automated, through the incorporation of a semi-autonomously operating robot fleet. This withdraws human personnel from the hazardous environment of a vessel under inspection and avoids the need for temporary staging in large compartments.
The MINOAS project objectives were realised through the integration of state-of-the-art technologies in the fields of robotics, visual perception and man-machine interface. However, during the project it was found that some specific requirements were not met by the already existing technologies; in these cases, new platforms and tools have been developed.
The MINOAS system relies on six vehicles that are actually made up over four basic platforms:
- a micro-aerial vehicle, which is expected to provide with an overall view of the state of the vessel and to detect potential critical areas;
- a lightweight magnetic crawler, which can be easily deployed onboard and provides close-up visual feedbacks;
- a heavyweight magnetic crawler, which is fitted with a dedicated robotic arm able to prepare the surface and perform ultrasonic thickness measurements;
- an underwater vehicle, able to perform underwater visual inspections and thickness measurements, particularly in tanks.
Both the lightweight and the heavyweight crawlers can be employed also for marking areas where defects are found.
Originally, the main focus of MINOAS was the vessel's hull inspection in the context of vessel's surveys by classification societies. Hull inspection during class surveys is mandatory to verify compliance with the statutory requirements of the international conventions governing trading vessels. It engulfs the majority (if not all) of the challenges that a robotic platform for vessel’s hull inspection must address. Nevertheless, classification societies are not the only stakeholder in ensuring the good condition of a vessel. Owners, charterers and prospective buyers have direct interest to ensure that the vessel is currently at a good condition and maintained properly.
Taking advantage of the modular approach adopted in the design of the system, three operating scenarios have been identified and analysed, including also cases where hull inspection is not performed in conjunction with class surveys, but which are still of high interest for safety and/or commercial reasons.
Beyond the outcomes expected while introducing the MINOAS concept in the maritime industry, some results emerging from the evolution and the realisation of the MINOAS vision are immediately useable in various applications within and beyond the maritime industry. That is, the MINOAS idea is based on the interconnection of different 'layers' of technological tools that have a
The data acquisition tasks have been automated, through the incorporation of a semi-autonomously operating robot fleet. Human staff can stay away from hazardous situations and locations.
Innovating for the future (technology and behaviour): A European Transport Research and Innovation Policy