Domestic and hazardous robots and tunnels under London

Features editor

Two ever-fascinating areas, developing robots for extreme environments and the home, and the underground structures beneath London, dominate this week’s events.

In Bristol this evening, Dyson’s robotics technology lead, Mike Aldred, will be giving a presentation on the company’s efforts to bring a domestic robot to market. In development for ten years, the robot is a self-propelled vacuum cleaner called the 360 Eye, and Aldred wil be explaining how the development of computer vision was essential to the product development, the importance of cooperation between industry and academia, and how a diverse team took the concept from laboratory to home.

Looking at somewhat less domestic robots, a seminar at the University of Birmingham on Wednesday addresses the issues of developing robots for extreme environments.  The seminar will use examples of real systems to address the questions of how robots can be developed for subsea, nuclear and space, with particular reference to robots designed for decommissioning work in radioactive environments. Materials for high pressure and radiation will be discussed, as will the various control techniques from full autonomy to full operator control and combinations of both, and how robots can recover from damage, perform new tasks, and adapt to changing circumstances.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the Institute of Engineering Technology is teaming up with OC Robotics to present a lecture on OC’s development of snake-arm robots which operate in radioactive, aerospace subsea and petrochemical facilities, providing remote handling functionality. Located at the Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology, the talk, given by OC’s Rebecca Hillier, will provide details on control techniques and the advanced engineering behind the 3.1m-long robots, which can bend through 180°.

Also on Tuesday and still with the IET, Bromley Central Library is hosting a free talk about the ever-fascinating subject of subterranean London. Starting with the rich history of underground construction in the capital —something the engineer has featured in detail though its history — the talk will also give in-depth (apologies for the pun) overviews — or possibly underviews — of London’s two biggest underground projects of the moment, Crossrail and the Thames Tideway tunnel.