Optimisation of docking locations for remotely operated vehicles
This thesis describes work aimed at developing practical methods for determining the best docking locations for an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) when inspecting an offshore platform. ROVs are used extensively in the offshore oil and gas industry to conduct a large variety of intervention tasks such as visual inspection, operational monitoring, equipment installation and operation, debris recovery, and so on. However, they have found only limited use in the more difficult tasks such as the detailed inspection of complex weld geometries. These complex welds are, however, found extensively in the construction of the majority of offshore structures and platforms ('oil rigs'). Furthermore, there is a safety requirement to have them inspected regularly since failure of these welds can potentially lead to catastrophic failure of the structures, the majority of which are manned. A number of specialist ROV systems have been developed that are able to attach onto platform structures and use their manipulators to conduct inspection. However, due to the short reach of the manipulators and the complex geometry of the welds (often encumbered with protruding pipes and other fittings) the success of any inspection is crucially dependent on a good initial choice of ROV docking position. This thesis will describe the problems and current manual planning methods, and then detail the development of two new methods for automated optimisation of docking positions - firstly using neural networks, and secondly using more conventional numerical processing. This thesis will also review related work in the field, such as the development of neural networks and their applications in the general offshore environment and in the control of ROVs and robot manipulator arms, and other approaches to ROV docking. It will further describe the use of the system developed here for planning docking positions on example commercial ROV inspection work programmes.