Robotics and artificial intelligence

Find out more about how robotics will revolutionise production speed, quality and employee safety.

Chemical and petrochemical plants are complex systems consisting of several interconnected process units. Given the exposure to toxic gases, heat and the risk of spillage & catastrophic failures, such plants present challenging environments for the employees. Modern chemical plants will be designed with an extensive use of robotics and automation for manufacturing, monitoring, quality control, inspection and material handling processes.

The Surrey Space Centres Surrey Technology For Autonomous Systems And Robotics (STAR) Lab has long-standing R&D heritage and expertise in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) for complex space systems and mission operations. Within the Centre for Connected Plants of the Future, STAR Lab's expertise will be combined with the chemical plant design knowledge of the CPE department to achieve automation and autonomy for future chemical plants that can perform routine as well as high risk tasks more efficiently.

The following technologies are of particular relevance: 

  • Sensing & perception: To provide situational awareness within the plants, involving technologies such as sensors, sensing techniques, algorithms for 3D perception, state estimation, data processing and fusion, and object, event or activity recognition.
  • Mobility: To reach and operate at sites of interests within the plants, involving robotic locomotions like the surface mobility and manipulation.
  • System autonomy: To provide robust and safe operation of the plants ranging from tele-operation and automation to semi and fully autonomous operation. This involves technologies in autonomous guidance, navigation and control, planning, scheduling & autonomy software framework, multi-agent coordination, reconfigurable and adjustable autonomy, and automated data analysis for decision making, etc.
  • Human-system interaction: To enable human to accurately and rapidly understand the state of the plants and act effectively and efficiently towards the goal state. This involves technologies in multi-modal interaction, remote and supervised control, distributed collaboration and coordination, and common human-system interfaces.
  • System engineering: To provide a framework for understanding and coordinating the complex interactions of plants and achieving the desired system requirements. This involves modularity, commonality and interfaces, verification and validation of complex adaptive systems, plant system/subsystem modelling and simulation, software architectures and frameworks, and safety/trust.

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Centre for Connected Plants of the Future
Department of Chemical and Process Engineering
University of Surrey