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Ship hull cleaning & inspection – ideal for robots

September 30, 2013

SIR_outside_repairs Harvest Automation launched their business after reviewing the top 10 areas where low-cost and often hard-to-find labor was most needed. They chose the ag business.

Boating and shipping are another market. There are close to 1,500,000 large ships in service (UNCTAD) – all of which need their hulls, tanks and ballasts cleaned and inspected regularly; very labor-intensive and costly.

A few new robotic products are attempting to do the tasks using novel robotic systems. Sea Robotics, a Florida company, offers “Hull BUG”, a ROV underwater grooming system which doesn’t need a dry dock. SIR, a project at the ETH in Zurich, focuses on ships tank inspection with an ingenious magnetic robot that can best be appreciated in this video and article. CMU’s NREC is also working on laser paint stripping using an autonomous mobile robotic platform. Finally, there’s the Roving BAT from eca Robotics, an underwater inspection and hull cleaning ROV, and the HERO inspection ROV from DCNS.

Small boats and yachts are a much larger market. Two underwater robot start-ups are targeting this marketplace: Hulltimo in France and Boatwashers in Finland.

Frank Tobe
guest author
Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.

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