Commercial and socio-economic opportunities
The project will yield a commercial pathway for the MIMRee system to the global marketplace that can support UK job creation and support innovation targets set by the UK Government under the Offshore Wind Industry Sector Deal and the ‘Clean Growth’ and ‘Artificial Intelligence and Data’ Grand Challenges in the UK Industrial Strategy.
ORE Catapult estimates that the MIMRee system could reduce the lifetime operational costs of an average wind farm by £26 million. By reducing turbine stoppage time, it could increase revenue generation by £1.1 million. Both these savings represent a significant step in the industry’s drive to reduce the cost of energy to consumers.
By April 2021, the system will be tailored for use in offshore renewables, addressing a potential global market size of £213 million per year by 2030. Beyond this project, the MIMRee consortium foresee similar operational efficiencies and benefits to other types of offshore operations too, such as onshore wind (a market of approximately £1 billion per year for commercialisation of the MIMRee system), search and rescue, defence, and oil and gas facilities.
There is also potential for individual components to find niche markets too. Standalone products could include:
- A camera for remote inspection of moving wind turbine blades
- Autonomous drones capable of deploying and recovering other robots to challenging surfaces
- Non-destructive testing (NDT) payload for inspect-and-repair robots
- Blade crawlers and integrated features including the manipulator arm for surface repairs and electronic skin
Social and economic impacts
The project’s vision is to move human technicians out of extreme environments by sending in a team of robots to do the manual work. By directing job creation towards collaboration with autonomous systems–from data and analytical and programming skills to human-robotic collaborations, MIMRee places the UK in a unique position to upskill its workforce.
Advances in robotics and autonomous systems also present UK start-ups and SMEs with opportunities to innovate solutions for a global market that is expected to reach $6.4 trillion per year by 2025 (according to the Royal Society’s 2015 report ‘Robotics and Autonomous’). Consortium partner Wootzano is an example of a UK small business launching high-tech and innovative products for this growing and promising export market.