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Advancing the intelligent control of robotics

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Oilfield Technology,

Jon Robertson, managing director of Saab Seaeye, the world’s largest electric underwater robotic systems manufacturer, shares an inside view of new ways to create robotics for task resolution.

Advancing the intelligent control of robotics

Ever smarter technology opens up new opportunities and greater economies for operators of underwater electric robotic vehicles.

Advances in intelligent control and miniaturisation are creating electric robotic systems that are smaller, smarter, lighter, more agile and more powerful. These advances are also changing the way systems are created.

Faced with the need to resolve tasks of many complexities, operators in all sectors of underwater operations need reliable and relevant solutions they can trust - in the quickest possible time, at the lowest possible cost and backed by reliable on-going support.

In a perfect world, an easy blend of customised and off-the-shelf solutions would offer an ideal result.

Today, smart technology is making this possible by creating solution-based intelligent interrelated building blocks.

These smart building blocks have grown from the formulation of our iCON intelligent, behaviour-based control system architecture.

It is the iCON ecosystem that enables hardware and software building blocks to be rapidly configured for a particular system solution.

These building blocks make for easy integration, easy connection and greater commonality. Not only does the concept allow the harmonious migration of options across different systems but it enables new developments and innovation to be greatly accelerated.

The flexibility of smart building blocks also gives operators the chance to build-in future capabilities as needed. They also embody our extensive knowledge base, design experience and technical support.

Essentially for operators, the iCON smart building block concept makes it easier and quicker to configure custom solutions, accelerate the availability of stock solutions and more readily enables the addition of third-party systems as needed.


The genesis of iCON came with the earlier creation of the Falcon, a breakthrough concept in robotic vehicle design that pioneered distributed intelligent control which changed underwater robotics forever and made the Falcon the most popular system of its size in the world.

Measuring just one metre in length, its unique intelligent control and five powerful thrusters provide high manoeuvrability and stability in strong crosscurrents, whilst enabling it to undertake an exceptionally wide variety of tasks.

For operators, the important advantage of intelligent distributed control is that each device on the vehicle is provided with its own microprocessor, thereby allowing tools and sensors to be easily added or changed, and custom options to be integrated – making it an ideal platform for numerous intricate and demanding applications.

Today, the Falcon’s already smart intelligent control system has been enhanced with iCON’s advanced behaviour-based intelligent control architecture.

This has introduced an important new attribute in the form of station-keeping and fine position adjustment that reduces the operator’s workload by allowing them to concentrate on the task at hand. It also makes it possible to add higher accuracy sensors for heading, depth and altitude.

It shows how existing and future robotics can be enhanced by iCON as the Falcon can now host many new features, making it an advanced platform for further automation and behaviour-based software development.

It is iCON’s building block simplicity that holds the key to our ongoing development as it allows harmonious migration of technology throughout Saab Seaeye’s range of robotic systems along with accelerating new systems development.

Its impact on the future of electric underwater robotics can be seen in the creation of the Leopard, the most powerful work system of its size in the world – and half the size and cost of an equivalent hydraulic work vehicle.

As with the Falcon, the Leopard’s iCON behaviour-based intelligent control architecture and its 11 powerful thrusters maintain a stable platform whilst operating heavy tooling in strong crosscurrents.

And should the system suffer multiple equipment damage, it can remain on task, as iCON allows it to ‘think for itself’ and independently manage each intelligent device on board to create a state of auto redundancy.

As an iCON vehicle, the Leopard can be enhanced and adapted at will.

Operators welcome the intelligent smart building block concept as it enables them to rapidly fashion solutions for a wide range of task resolution opportunities, whilst creating systems that can bring considerable cost savings.

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