The second competition in the Autonomous Robot for Gas and Oil Sites (ARGOS) Challenge begins on Monday April 4. Calling on the talents of startups and academics worldwide, it seeks to create the first autonomous surface robot adapted to oil and gas sites in less than three years, thereby enhancing safety conditions for operators. Five teams – AIR-K, ARGONAUTS, FOXIRIS, LIO and VIKINGS – are going head-to-head in three major stages of decisive competitions. They are currently back at the Lacq site for round two.
Between April 4 and 8, the teams will be given six missions designed to test their robots in real-life conditions, where they will come up against:
- A gas leak simulation, only detectable by ultrasound (acoustics).
- Obstacles randomly placed in their path.
- Alarms, unusual noises and interferences.
- A communications system failure (Wi-Fi).
- A suspicious heat source.
- Inconsistencies between the 3D site models and the actual terrain.
Using artificial intelligence, the robots will have to detect anomalies, analyze each new situation and adapt their strategy accordingly to accomplish such tasks as autonomously reaching a designated safe zone in an emergency and warning an operator. The jury will be judging their ability to handle unexpected and potentially hazardous situations.
This year, the robots will have to issue a report on their inspection round after each mission. Using these data, images and measurements, the jury will be able to refine their assessment as soon as the test finishes. Another new feature this year is that the missions will take place on the ground and first floors, meaning the robots will have to climb the stairs to complete their rounds.
ATEX Certification a Core Component
"The main purpose of the ARGOS Challenge is to develop robots that can operate in potentially explosive atmospheres. These days, ATEX certification is not only a priority, it's a prerequisite to assessing any robot's potential in the oil and gas industry," said Alain Goulois, chairman of the jury and Vice President, R&D at Total Exploration & Production until 2014, in his closing remarks at the first competition. Ten months later, the jury will be paying particular attention to the teams' solutions to the difficult yet vital challenge of meeting ATEX standards when they present their technical data.