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Jellyfish don't have brains...but that is about to change

6 November 2020
The use of robotics in bp is now being reimagined. Elinor Doubell, vp data science shares how her team is exploring this emerging technology and what it could mean for bp

Robotics is maturing beyond just locally, remote-controlled robots. The world is starting to see a growing variety of technologies emerging in this space. I&E - digital science and engineering’s Elinor Doubell and her team are responsible for exploring these emerging robotic technologies and what they could mean for bp.


The breadth of different robots that could change our world is increasing. Part of the role of I&E – digital science and engineering is to look at far horizon technologies and understand where they could potentially be disruptive or offer opportunities to transform bp.

Over the last few years, our focus in bp has been on where we could use robots in the air, on the ground and in the sea,” said Elinor Doubell, vp data science. “For example, we looked at how robots could help us with inspection and maintenance in our assets, our offshore platforms and refineries.

 The use of robotics in bp is now being reimagined. 


“Although new types of technologies, such as soft robots, nano and swarm robotics are still emerging, the reality is that we need to be thinking about how to bring them into bp now,” said Elinor. 

Soft robotics


Soft robotics is where the actual body of the robot is made from something other than metal. Soft robotics can address intrinsic safety issues and accomplish complex movement and manipulation tasks.


One great example of a development in soft robotics is the jellyfish robot, which is built from new materials, carbon nanotubes and is then coated in platinum. Fuelled by hydrogen and oxygen it can move underwater just as a jellyfish would.

“Having robots that can exert a force – maybe to clean something, inspect it and also where there's delicate equipment – makes for a very interesting set of possible use cases for soft robotics.”

Elinor Doubell, vp digital science

Micro/nano robotics


Micro and nano robots, as the name suggests, are tiny robots, some of them on the scale of cells.


Research is focused on developing their use in medicine and inside the body, for example, in the bloodstream. These robots could be useful for bp, as they could get inside complex equipment to inspect it and check for corrosion or erosion on the insides of difficult to reach surfaces. 


Swarm robotics


Swarm robotics, in a technical sense, describes a group of robotic ‘agents’ that are all part of an overall cooperative effort. These self-organizing swarms could help humans in the future by enabling the creation of large, mobile sensor networks or have the ability to change formation to complete a range of tasks. The swarm could become an integral part of an asset, where multiple robotic components use artificial intelligence to work together to perform an overall mission autonomously.  


Reimagining robotics


We’re already starting to recognize the benefits of using robots to help with maintenance, inspections and supporting our operations, and will continue to build on this capability. Looking forward, we’re also reimagining the use of robots to take advantage of a much wider range of robotics technologies and advances in AI that will give us more capability to have robots working together and working with people. There are huge possibilities to use robots to enhance safety, change how mundane or risky tasks are done, and potentially create new businesses for bp.

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