Boston Dynamics four-legged robot ‘Spot’ has scored a new job; patrolling an oil rig in the Skarv field in the Norwegian Sea
The robot is set to autonomously inspect an oil-rig owned by energy mega-firm Aker BP and capture data on gas leaks whilst keeping its eyes open for other issues.
The machine will then be tasked with generating reports if it comes across anything that requires further investigation.
The project is going to be the first real-world test of the robotics firm ability to create machines that can perform work that would otherwise be high-risk for humans.
Spot has a range of tools on board that make it ideal for this type of task. It could check for gas leaks using methane sensors, map the interior of structures on the rig with a lidar module, or even open doors using its arm.
The machine is designed to withstand rain, it can run at 1.6 meters per second, has 360-degree cameras, and can operate in temperatures from -5°C to 45°C.
The idea isn’t that Spot replaces a human – it will, in fact, be hooked up to telepresence operators onshore – but that using Spot to do patrols is safer to its human crew.
Aker BP is using AI developer to create software capable of working out which tasks the robot will be best suited for. The company has already tested Spot in a number of simulated environments.
The four-legged robot made its debut at Boston Dynamics last September and has since been rented out to around 75 companies. In fact, its latest job is significantly less dangerous than some of its previous tasks (one is currently being used by US police as part of a bomb squad).
It is believed that Boston Dynamics only has 20 of the robots available now. However, if the company is able to develop a market for them it is planning to manufacture about 1,000 for field use. So far the company has to be very choosy about its clients and hasn’t disclosed how much each unit costs.