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University Of Limerick Launches Robot For Marine Renewable Energy Sector

27th April 2018
Yesterday’s launch of the ROV Étaín at Limerick city docks Yesterday’s launch of the ROV Étaín at Limerick city docks

#SeaPower - The University of Limerick (UL) has unveiled a unique €2 million underwater robot adapted to inspect, repair and maintain marine renewable energy (MRE) facilities.

Funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) through its Research Infrastructure Programme, the ROV Étaín can operate in challenging wind, wave, and tidal conditions.

Speaking at the launch of the robot at Limerick city docks yesterday (Thursday 26 April), 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 will support 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.

Prof Daniel Toal, director of the Centre for Robotics and Intelligence Systems at UL, explained why the ROV Étaín was developed. 

“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,” said UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald. “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.”

Speaking about the project, Dr Ciarán Seoighe, deputy director general of Science Foundation Ireland, said the new 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.”

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