AUSTRALIA’S oil and gas sector is uniquely placed to drive major advances in robotics technology, according to the head of a global collaborative focused on advancing robotics in big industry.

The SPRINT Robotics Collaborative is an industry-driven initiative that promotes the development, availability and application of robotics techniques in technical inspections, maintenance and operation of capital-intensive infrastructure.

The first Australian SPRINT Robotics seminar will be held in Perth at the end of this month to showcase technologies. A roadshow will also take place in the week leading up to the July 30 event.

SPRINT Chairman Tjibbe Bouma said there was significant interest both academically and from operators in Australia to advance the use of robotics technology.

“The Australian market provides a particularly fertile ground for application of robotics due to the remoteness of many of the production locations, harsh environmental conditions, and strong focus on preservation of the environment and safety,” Dr Bouma said.

“Robots are going to be an important part of solutions for those challenges.”

SPRINT Robotics says as well as environmental and safety performance, drivers for increased use of robotics and automated technologies include increased operational efficiency and cost reduction associated with maintenance and unplanned shutdowns.

Innovations that are having a significant impact include solutions to keep facilities in service, avoid dangerous activities such as confined space entry or diving, and to enable remote operation of facilities.

According to Jason De Silveira, head of Perth-based robotics specialist Nexxis, the big benefit of SPRINT Robotics is in educating the market about available technologies and sparking innovative thinking.

“There’s certainly growing awareness of what robotics technologies can achieve, but a combination of resistance to change and a general lack of understanding of how to go about implementing robotics solutions continues to hinder progress in some sectors,” Mr De Silveira said.

“Understanding the global landscape and having visibility of autonomous robotics technology roadmaps are vital to enabling organisations to plan, implement and evolve into the future.

“The SPRINT Robotics initiative, and particularly the seminar and roadshows around Perth, are vital to helping enhance understanding of the extent that robotics technologies can positively impact safety, efficiency and operational performance.

“It’s also a great catalyst for getting the conversations flowing within and across industries to build on ideas and realise opportunities.”

SPRINT Robotics says that to start using technology more broadly across big industry, a change of mentality and culture is necessary. Demonstrating the value technology can add is key in the process.

Collaboration between researchers, technology providers and industry stakeholders is one of the keys that is driving increased innovation and acceptance globally.

The Perth SPRINT Robotics Seminar takes place at the Parmelia Hilton on 30 July and includes an exhibition showcasing market-ready robotic technologies.

Presenters include representatives from Chevron, the CSIRO and Data 61, NERA, Nexxis, Shell, Vopak and Woodside.

“We are very excited to bring SPRINT Robotics to Australia and share global insights with the Australian community,” Dr Bouma said.

“The seminar provides an excellent opportunity to learn and exchange ideas for those interested in robotic solutions.”