Climbing robot inspects mooring chains above and below water
A robot designed to hook onto, and scale up and down, large mooring chains, both at sub-sea level and in the air – with a non-destructive testing (NDT), ultrasonic imaging system on board that scans for critical defects – has recently undergone successful field trials.
The ground-breaking, new climbing robot, named RIMCAW (Robotic Inspection of Mooring Chains in Air and Water), is the result of a year-long, fast-track project that secured funding from Innovate UK, the Government agency behind finding and driving the innovations that will grow the UK economy. It is being delivered by collaborative partners Computerised Information Technology Ltd, Innovative Technology and Science Ltd, London South Bank University and TWI Ltd.
The inspection of large mooring chains, such as those being increasingly employed in floating offshore renewable energy installations, presents challenges due to the dynamic service conditions of both the underwater and atmospheric environments. RIMCAW, with its ability to autonomously move up and down a mooring chain, and handle the catenary curve, as directed from a top-side control system, is designed to uniquely address these and will start scanning for flaws as soon as it is deployed. It will identify issues such as fatigue cracking as it progresses, and record the scanned data for subsequent downloading and analysis once it has completed its inspection.
The field trials took place in the diving facility at TWI, Middlesbrough. The robot was tested for being neutrally buoyant, watertight and functional as anticipated, whilst simultaneously putting its sophisticated hardware through its paces. These successful simulated trials have proved that RIMCAW is fit-for-purpose, as well as commercially viable, thereby paving the way for further field trials in real-world operating conditions.
Channa Nageswaran, RIMCAW Project Leader and NDT Team Manager at TWI explained “Failure of mooring chain systems in offshore oil and gas structures represents a critical threat to the assets themselves, human life and to the environment. As a result, considerable effort goes into ensuring that the integrity of the chains is maintained to high standards, and a key part of this is increasing the precision and reliability of inspection methods.”
By Jake Frith
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