Sealing the deal on major robotics programmes



(l-r) Tetsuji Yuasa, Associate Officer and Senior Manager, Submarine Design Department, Kobe Shipyard, and Professor David Lane

The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, in which Heriot-Watt partners with the University of Edinburgh, has sealed two major contracts at a ceremony at the British Embassy in Tokyo.

These contracts underline the Centre’s growing engagement with the Far East, supported by the UK Government.
Professor David Lane

Professor David Lane, Director of the Ocean Systems Laboratory at Heriot-Watt and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, supported by UKTI and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, formalized an agreement with Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd for the a five year development programme for multi-sensor algorithms for the monitoring and maintenance of underwater pipelines by autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

AUVs equipped with these algorithms will be able to track along subsea pipelines at close range, including buried and invisible sections, using data from multiple sensors. 

Kawasaki described Heriot-Watt’s Ocean Systems Laboratory, which will lead on the project, as having expertise in control and autonomy of underwater vehicles for both offshore oil and gas and renewable-energy applications, and that this would be backed by Kawasaki’s experience in off-shore work-fields and manufacturing technology in creating these leading-edge AUVs.

Collaboration and engagement

Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, co-Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and the Chair in Robotics at Edinburgh University, concluded a contract signing with Hitachi's Central Research Labs (CRL-CER) at the British Embassy Tokyo on the same trip. This marked the beginning of an exciting collaboration in the domain of intelligent warehousing and autonomous manipulation robots between the School of Informatics at Edinburgh University and one of the leading manufacturing giants of Japan.

Professor Lane said, “These contracts underline the Centre’s growing engagement with the Far East, supported by the UK Government, and reflecting its position as a major UK Centre for research and training in the rapidly developing field of robotics and autonomous systems.

“It is estimated that by 2025 such advanced robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) could have a worldwide economic impact of $1.7 trillion to $4.5 trillion annually, with an emerging market value €15.5Billion, and we are helping to ensure that the UK and Scotland are maintaining a key role in the field.”

As part of the visit the team also visited Kawasaki’s Kobe shipyard to meet senior management and engineers and to present the Centre for Robotics and some recent developments.