UL Launches Robot For Use In Marine Renewable Energy Sector

University of Limerick (UL) unveiled a unique €2-million underwater robot at the docks in Limerick city. The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) was officially launched by Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen TD.

The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded ROV Étaín can operate in challenging wind, wave, and tidal conditions and will be used to inspect, repair and maintain Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) facilities.

Speaking at the launch, Minister of State Pat Breen said: “Internationally, the offshore renewable energy sector is set to rapidly grow which will help to reduce carbon emissions and arrest climate change. Ireland has the best wind and wave resources in Europe and it is vital that as an island nation we invest and engage in research in the area of marine energy technology. Therefore, I’m delighted to today launch this ROV which willsupport Ireland’s growing offshore renewable energy sector.”

Researchers at UL’s Centre for Robotics and Intelligence Systems (CRIS) have enhanced a commercially available ROV system (Forum Energy Technology’s Comanche ROV) with UL-developed advanced control software (OceanRings), precision navigation and flight control, state-of-the-art robotic imaging and sonar systems and fully automated manipulator systems.

These advanced features allow the robot to operate in the challenging environment of ocean renewable energy to support inspection, repair and maintenance operations.

Professor Daniel Toal, Director of the Centre for Robotics and Intelligence Systems at UL, explained: “Operation support in the MRE sector usually occurs on floating infrastructures so conditions are regularly beyond the capability and operating limits of commercial ROV technology. This means new smart ROV systems capability is necessary and that is what our team at UL has developed and launched today.”

UL’s Centre for Robotics and Intelligence Systems is part of the University College Cork led SFI national Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI).

The MaREI robotics lab at UL leads operations support engineering projects with industry partners such as Shannon Foynes Port Company, ESB, Ireland’s National Space Centre, SonarSim, Teledyne, Resolve Marine, CIL, IDS Monitoring and among others.

“The advanced robotics technology developed at UL will be crucial in supporting the burgeoning marine renewable energy sector. It will also play a significant role in reducing the cost of installing and maintaining large-scale offshore energy generation infrastructure. As the worldwide marine renewable energy sector grows, UL’s research contribution in this area will have even greater impact. I am particularly happy to see this advanced UL technology being developed, trialled and launched in Limerick City docks. The UL robotics base at the docks is just one of our commitments to grow and maintain strong links between the campus and the heart of Limerick city, with strategic partners like Shannon Foynes Port Company,” University of Limerick President, Dr Des Fitzgerald, stated.

Speaking about the project, Dr Ciarán Seoighe, Deputy Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support the launch of this ROV, which is funded through our Research Infrastructure Programme. The programme specifically seeks to support projects incorporating state-of-the-art infrastructure that will facilitate excellent and impactful scientific research. The ROV will enhance our understanding of subsea exploration and marine renewable energy, placing Ireland at the forefront of advances in environmental research that are crucial to our country’s future”.

About the Centre for Robotics and Intelligence Systems

The Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems at University of Limerick, was established in 2000 by Director Professor Daniel Toal. It is a partner in SFI National Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI). CRIS is the only research centre focused on the application and development of field robotics (marine, airborne, land vehicles) in Ireland. It is made up of a team of 25 academic, post doctorate and PhD researchers from engineering disciplines: electrical, electronic, computer, mechanical and aeronautical, ocean engineering backgrounds. CRIS is focused on developing practical and industrial relevant marine technologies. Its facilities include test labs, water tanks, testing facilities at Limerick Docks, four underwater robots from light inspection to work-class ROVs and drones.

About the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI)

MaREI is the marine and renewable energy research, development and innovation centre supported by Science Foundation Ireland. It combines the expertise of a wide range of research groups and industry partners, with the shared mission of solving the main scientific, technical and socio-economic challenges across the marine and renewable energy sectors.  MaREI is coordinated by the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork and has over 200 researchers working across six academic institutions collaborating with over 45 industry partners.

The MaREI research team comprises internationally recognised experts from UCC, NUIG, UL, MU, UCD, and CIT, who have complementary research backgrounds key to providing the underpinning research necessary for Ireland to develop commercially successful marine and renewable energy industries. Currently, it has over 200 employees and its budget exceeds €35 million.

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