Robots in Tanks

The project “Evaluation and Demonstration of Robotic Solutions” is part of the collaborative R&D project “Robots in Tanks” (ROT). ROT lays the foundation for the application of robotic systems in the inspection and maintenance of tanks that are complex and difficult to access, as for instance ballast water tanks (BWTs) on ships. The project develops new concepts for adaptive, mobile and (partly) autonomous robots that are needed to operate under the extreme conditions (narrow, inaccessible, dirty) typical for BWTs . These concepts build on and extend the current state-of-the-art, combining adequate methods for locomotion, new designs of control- and system architectures, efficient communication technologies for closed spaces, as well as the necessary sensors and actuators. To demonstrate the concepts, the technical key components of the system will be thoroughly tested, using both computer-based 3-D simulations and physical models in a close-to-reality ballast water tank “test-bed”. In a addition to a concept for robots in tanks, ROT develops recommendations for the “robot-friendly” construction of ballast water tanks. A close cooperation with shipyards (Meyer Werft), classification societies (DNV), and maritime consultants (BALance) throughout the project ensures the conformity of all developed concepts and recommendations with international standards and regulations.

Duration: 01.05.2009 till 30.04.2011
Donee: German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence GmbH
Sponsor: Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology
Grant number: This project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) according to a resolution of the German Bundestag, grant no. 03SX269A.
Partner: Meyer Werft (Koordinator), Det Norske Veritas AS – DNV
Application Field: Logistics, Production and Consumer
Related Robots: ARTIS
Autonomous Railguided Tank Inspection System

Project details

Compartments of a modern ballast water tank (CAD drawing)‏ (Source: Meyer-Werft GmbH©)
Partly flooded workspace of an actual ballast water tank (Source: Det Norske Veritas©)

The collaborative research project „RObots in Tanks“ (ROT) is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology within the European ERA-NET MARTEC. The objectives of ROT are to develop concepts for the robotised inspection of ballast water tanks (BWTs) on ships. In the long term, the methods and concepts developed in ROT are the basis for the automation of inspection-, maintenance and production processes in narrow, inaccessible, polluted, and complex enclosed spaces on ships as well as in port areas and other industrial sites.

A thorough analysis of characteristic BWT design patterns and current standard procedures for inspection, maintenance and conservation processes, provides a solid foundation for the concepts and recommendations developed in ROT.

Based on an overview of currently available robotic systems and robotic locomotion principles suitable technical concepts and components are selected and integrated in a draft technical concept for robots in tanks. At the same time, recommendations for the design of “robot-friendly” BWTs are developed. The close cooperation of the project partners DFKI, Meyerwerft, DNV and maritime consultants (BALance) ensures that the concepts and recommendations will both meet the requirements of shipyards, shipping companies and classification agencies and be conformant with the relevant international standards, regulations and guidelines.

To test the technical concepts under realistic circumstances, selected key system components will undergo intensive tests. For this purpose, state-of-the-art computer-based simulation tools are used. In addition, physical close-to-reality tests will be performed in a custom-made ballast water tank test-bed.

On basis of the test results, a finalised set of technical concepts, BWT tank design recommendations, and general recommendations for the automatic inspection, maintenance and conservation of BWTs on ships will be developed.

It is expected that the implementation of the concepts and recommendations developed in ROT will have a positive impact on the productivity of European shipbuilding industries, shipping companies, and classification societies, increasing their competitiveness on the world market.

The robotic systems conceptualised in ROT are furthermore the basis for the automation of processes in other complex enclosed spaces. The marketing potential of such robots is high, since they can be used in various tanks on ships, off-shore and on-shore facilities, as well as in other industrial sectors.


ARTIS: Tank inspection robot




Tank inspection by cost effective rail based robots
Leif Christensen, Johannes Lemburg, Thomas Vögele, Frank Kirchner, Niklas Fischer, Reinhard Ahlers, George Psarros, Lars-Eric Etzold
In Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Computer Applications in Shipbuilding, (ICCAS-11), 20.9.-22.9.2011, Trieste, o.A., Sep/2011.
Cost-Effective Autonomous Robots for Ballast Water Tank Inspection
Leif Christensen, Niklas Fischer, Sven Kroffke, Johannes Lemburg, Reinhard Ahlers
In Journal of Ship Production and Design, Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers , volume 27, number 3, pages 127-136, Aug/2011.
Cost Effective Autonomous Robots for Ballast Water Tank Inspection
Leif Christensen, Niklas Fischer, Sven Kroffke, Johannes Lemburg, Reinhard Ahlers
Editors: Volker Bertram
In Proceedings of the 10th Conference on Computer Applications and Information Technology in the Maritime Industries, (COMPIT-11), 02.5.-04.5.2011, Berlin, Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg, pages 109-123, May/2011. ISBN: 978-3-89220-649-1.

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