Robot safety: Investment programme aims to improve workplace safety
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has backed a £26.6m government investment programme to build mini robots to repair underground pipes and other hazardous work environments.
The investment programme was announced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) during the festive break.
Scientists from four British universities will receive a total of £7m to develop 1cm-long robots that use sensors to find and mend cracks in underground pipes.
A further 14 projects will receive a total of £19.6m to develop a range of robots to work on offshore wind farms and nuclear decommissioning facilities.
“New and emerging technologies are shaping our working environment,” said HSE Chair, Martin Temple.
“As a regulator, we want to encourage industry to think about how technologies such as robotics and AI can be used to manage risk in the workplace, safeguarding workers both now and in the future world of work.”
Researchers will also test new technologies, such as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) software on satellites to detect when repairs are needed, and drones for oil pipeline monitoring.
“While for now we can only dream of a world without roadworks disrupting our lives, these pipe-repairing robots herald the start of technology that could make that dream a reality in the future,” said Science Minister, Chris Skidmore.
“From deploying robots in our pipe network so cutting down traffic delays, to using robots in workplaces to keep people safer, this new technology could change the world we live in for the better,” added the Minister.
“Experts in our top UK universities across the country are well-equipped to develop this innovative new technology.
“We have put research and development at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy, with the biggest boost to funding in UK history to create high skill jobs and boost productivity across the country.”
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport added: “The projects announced today demonstrate how robots and artificial intelligence will revolutionise the way we carry out complex and dangerous tasks, from maintaining offshore wind farms to decommissioning nuclear power facilities.
“They also illustrate the leading role that the UK’s innovators are playing in developing these new technologies which will improve safety and boost productivity and efficiency.”