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The Future of the Workplace: Robots in Extreme Environments

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Read about Consequential Robotics point of view on the latest robotics news, updates and trends. Learn more about the future of social robots and the impact they have on the quality of life as people age. Our writers will share robotics research ideas and challenges to the robotics community.

The Future of the Workplace: Robots in Extreme Environments

Consequential Robotics

Are robots the future of the working environment?

Where there’s a need, such as work too dangerous for humans, there’s a place for robots.

But, what are the industries that would benefit most from the instalment of robotics? Also, if there’s a need, why aren’t we using more robots?

We take a closer look at robots in extreme environments.

The Industries that Need Robots

Certain workplaces would benefit from the use of robots more than others. This ultimately comes down to the health and safety issues that would be avoided by using robots instead of humans.

Deep Sea Operations

Deep sea operations

Many industries depend on diving to extreme depths in order to carry out important work, such as offshore wind.

However, deep sea diving presents many risks, such as saturation and atmospheric changes. The extreme pressures can also cause long-term health impacts for divers, such as neurological issues.

Using robots, instead of people, would bypass these safety issues. Also, robots could perform the dexterous tasks needed at extreme depths with more accuracy.

Radioactive Environments

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We’re all aware of the dangers of sending humans into radioactive environments. However, nuclear decommissioning is an essential process, as many power stations are still operational.

Therefore, there is an earnest call for robots in these extreme environments. ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) are able to perform tasks with precision and carry tools that people cannot.

Oceanography

Mapping the sea bed is essential to many industries, and there’s a lot of the UK’s coast we still haven’t explored.

Many people are unaware that the UK is home to some exciting marine conservation areas, such as canyons and coral reefs. However, accessing these areas can prove difficult.

Hazardous environments like this require marine robots, useful for tasks such as putting together a comprehensive map of the UK’s sea bed.

The Current Challenges

So, if many industries would benefit from the use of robots, what’s preventing more of them from being used?

The fact is that technology still needs to make many advancements in order for robots to be useful in certain areas.

Cost-Efficiency

There’s a serious cost-effective problem surrounding the instalment of robots in extreme environments.

In radioactive environments, for example, many of the machines stop working before they can complete their task, only to become nuclear waste themselves.

Also, deep sea operations are given only a fraction of the budget given to the space industry, making it difficult for advancements in technology to be possible.

Power Issues

Often, the ROVs have very low battery power, meaning they cannot be used for some of the lengthy, more difficult tasks required.

For robots to be useful in extreme environments, their endurance needs to be improved. Limited functionality hinders the amount of work that can be done.

Lack of Intelligence

Despite advancements in technology, the robots used are often relatively dumb. This means that they need to be controlled by intelligent pilots.

Ideally, this would be the other way around. A machine that could ‘think’ for itself, and solve issues, would be invaluable when installed in the workplace. Artificial intelligence provides the answer, however the technology still needs to make many advancements.

Robots in the Workplace

Many people are apprehensive about installing robots in the workplace. The question on many people’s minds is ‘will robots take our jobs?’

The answer to this is both yes and no. Robots won’t perform the mundane, easy jobs, but the tasks that are near-impossible for people to do.

Also, the instalment of robotics will create some exciting business opportunities. Technology will only keep advancing and improving, therefore this will open up many possibilities for innovators and intrapreneurs to take advantage of.

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We will soon be relying on robots more and more, creating many benefits for us in the workplace. Robots will perform the difficult, dangerous, or even impossible jobs that we cannot.

This blog post was brought to you by Innovate UK. Download and listen to Innovate UK’s podcast about robots in extreme environments here. Alternatively, subscribe to their YouTube channel to stay updated with the latest advancements in science and technology.