Image (top): Autonomous underwater robot for cleaning and inspecting the underwater parts of bridge and wharf structures.
Image (bottom): Autonomous climbing robot for inspection and condition assessment of confined spaces.
Credit: University of Technology Sydney.

With support from several ARC Linkage Projects grants, researchers at the University of Technology Sydney’s Centre for Autonomous Systems are developing autonomous robotic systems to assist in steel bridge maintenance, underwater structure cleaning, and to augment the strength of humans conducting physically demanding work.

Led by Distinguished Professor Dikai Liu, the team, in collaboration with the NSW Roads and Maritime Service, has developed two autonomous grit-blasting robots that can assist in the maintenance of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By performing assessments on the steel girder bridge and removing old paint and corrosion, the robots are reducing human exposure to deadly workplace hazards—including a 134-metre drop to water from the top of the bridge, and a risk of exposure to lead-based paint and fine dust particles.

The team has developed biologically-inspired climbing robots, and is now developing an underwater robot to clean and inspect the underwater parts of bridge and wharf structures, which are often dangerous to access in the high currents of the intertidal zone, and covered with thick growths of oysters and barnacles.

As well as securing a number of US and Australian patents, this work has received recognition through research and engineering excellence awards at state, national and international levels.

The research has resulted in the launch of a spin-out company, Sabre Autonomous Solutions, which was developed to take these robotic solutions to market.

YouTube video: An autonomous climbing robot for confined space inspection
Credit: UTS: Centre for Autonomous Systems | Kevin Liu
YouTube video: SPIR: Submersible Pile Inspection Robot
Credit: UTS: Centre for Autonomous Systems