RE2 Robotics, a Pittsburgh-based developer of intelligent mobile manipulation systems, has received a $9.5 million contract from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop an underwater robotic system for the autonomous neutralization of underwater mines and explosive devices for the U.S. Navy.
Called Maritime Mine Neutralization System (M2NS), the program will utilize a robotic system to place and attach neutralization devices to underwater mines and water-borne improvised explosive devices (WBIEDs) – to keep humans from doing the dangerous work. The M2NS system will consist of a set of RE2 Sapien Sea Class robotic arms and VideoRay’s Defender remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which both exhibit unprecedented power density.
The M2NS will also use RE2 Detect computer vision software to locate mines and its Intellect autonomy software to place neutralizing devices on those targets precisely. In addition, an array of new sensors provide situational awareness and aid autonomy, helping it to potentially navigate to extended depths in the ocean. This allows the system to better know what’s going on around and to react accordingly.
The RE2 Sapien Sea Class robotic arms were originally designed and developed for the ONR, feature a compact, strong, electromechanical design with human-like dexterity that is neutrally buoyant. The arm has six degrees of freedom, including continuous wrist and elbow roll joints, which enable precise manipulation and placement of objects. They can operate at depths of down to 300 meters (984 ft) or deeper and can lift up to 5.2 kg (11.4 lb) while underwater. The fusion of these technologies provides superior strength and precision while manipulating neutralization devices.
“The detection and neutralization of WBIEDs and other underwater explosives is a critically dangerous task for Navy divers. Consistent with our mission of improving worker safety, the M2NS will enable the Navy to find and autonomously neutralize targets in deep ocean waters, while experienced divers supervise from a safe distance,” said Jorgen Pedersen, president, and CEO of RE2 Robotics.
The human-like capability of the M2NS allows it to be used for complex offshore infrastructure and maintenance applications in the oil and gas and renewable wind industries. The system can be used for weld inspection of rig piles, ships, and FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) systems, mooring inspection and measurement, and valve inspection and manipulation.