The inspection of storage vessels in the oil and gas industry is a major challenge worldwide as the process is costly and dangerous. There can be as many as 14 vessels on an offshore platform without counting the vessels onshore. Each of these vessels is subject to degradation with time and must be regularly inspected. The conventional approach involves sending human operatives into these confined spaces.

As of end March 2018, Ross Robotics has completed an InnovateUK funded research programme in collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), developing an autonomous robotic system which can deploy a range of sensors and operate inside storage vessels.

Because the robotic system is reconfigurable, it will be possible to make smaller and larger robots as required, depending on the vessel to be inspected. The aim is to replace human beings, to increase the frequency of inspections and to reduce the cost of inspections.

The NPL DIFCAM system, already successfully implemented in the Crossrail tunnels under London, has been adapted to a smaller, modular format for the robot platform. DIFCAM creates and compares imagery over time and can detect a range of defects and aid analysis. The combined system has been tested with success in a simplified benign environment as a precursor to real environment testing later in the year.