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Major project to improve remote-controlled vehicles

05 February 2024
Prof. Ming Cao
Prof. Ming Cao

Professor Ming Cao from the Engineering and Technology Institute Groningen (ENTEG) is the leading partner in an NWO-funded project to improve the quality and safety of remotely operated vehicles in offshore operations. Prof. Elbert de Jong from the University of Utrecht is the main co-applicant. The total NWO-KIC grant amounts to EUR 1.3 million.

The project will be co-financed by industrial partners Fugro Innovation & Technology and Damen. Other universities involved are Eindhoven University of Technology, VU University Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology.

Algorithms for more control

With his team, Prof. Cao focuses on the design of robust and self-sufficient autonomous control of offshore vehicles and constructing algorithms that guarantee control in scenarios with limited or no communication. Partners from other universities will work on better assessing the impact of autonomous offshore operations and developing a safe legislative framework for such operations.

Teaming of man and machine

Operations may include fishing, exploration and transportation. And also increasingly, engineering and construction for infrastructure around energy transition such as offshore wind farm development. Cao explains that the ultimate goal is human-in-the-loop control: "With Human-in-the-Loop you achieve what neither a human nor a machine alone can achieve. When a machine is unable to solve a problem, humans must intervene. When errors in communication are detected, for example, the control algorithms to be developed will create the ‘brain’ that allows vehicles to switch between human operator(supervisor) and autonomous control. The project therefore ultimately enhances Dutch offshore workers' teaming with (semi-)autonomous marine vessels.”

A remotely controlled surface vehicle, which will be used to test control algorithms
A remotely controlled surface vehicle, which will be used to test control algorithms

NWO KIC funding

NWO develops innovation programmes in the Knowledge and Innovation Covenant (KIC) focused on the societal challenges of the Netherlands to realise impact for the economy, people and society. The emphasis is on collaboration between knowledge institutions, private parties and government. Through the KIC programme, NWO contributes to the  government's mission-driven top sectors and innovation policy. This grant has been awarded in the programme 'Collaboration between humans and (semi-)autonomous systems'.

Last modified:06 February 2024 2.53 p.m.
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