LongOps

LongOps is a £12M UK-Japanese robotics project to develop robotic capability that will support delivery of faster and safer decommissioning at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, and Sellafield and the JET fusion reactor in the UK.

Users at Fukushima, Sellafield and JET need to develop solutions to conduct work over many decades inside large, shielded spaces which contain hazardous material, using remotely controlled ‘long reach’ robotics. The name ‘LongOps’ refers to both the long period of the operations and the long reach booms required.

A major feature of the LongOps programme is the development of sophisticated digital twin technology – software which links virtual reality with the physical world. This next generation of digital tools will provide opportunities to develop decommissioning strategies, and train and conduct operations in high-consequence, constantly changing environments.

Opportunities

A key objective of LongOps is to develop the UK Supply Chain to better
support the Nuclear industry over the coming decades. At the heart of
LongOps is a portfolio of approximately £2.6 million external research and development aimed at increasing the Technology Readiness Levels of key digital technologies.

The contracts will explore the potential for a new generation of digital tools focusing on these key areas:

  • Architecture and Standards
  • Development of a Next Generation Digital Mock-Up
  • Technology development related to Long Reach Mechanisms
  • Haptic Manipulators
  • Sensing & Perception in Unstructured Environments

Links to opportunities will be added as they become available.

Contract ID Approximate value* Invitation to Tender (ITT)
Close Date
Information
Development, supply, install, commissioning of a haptic training simulator system 3.4.2 £130k Now closed Generic Robotics
LongOps Next Generation Digital Mock Up 3.2.3 £600k Now closed 5 contracts awarded in Phase 1

  1. Createc + Extend Robotics
  2. Generic Robotics + Numerion software
  3. Jacobs + Manufacturing Technology Centre & PA Consulting
  4. VNS + Tree-C
  5. Atkins
LongOps Enhancements to Robot Planning Tools 3.3.1 £200k Now closed Atkins + UCLC
LongOps Enhanced Control of Flexible Long Reach Manipulators 3.3.2 £170k Now closed Under evaluation
Development of datasets for machine learning 3.5.1 £255k 29 April 22 Contract notice
Research and development of novel techniques and technologies for incorporating sensor data into digital twins 3.5.2 £240k 29 April 22 Contract notice
Development of low-TRL digital technologies for decommissioning** SBRI £1.2 million 27 April 22 SBRI Competition

*accurate values will be included in the Invitations to Tender

**will be advertised through SBRI

SBRI Competition

The aim of this competition is to develop digital technologies which address the LongOps use cases in the following challenge areas and also contribute toward the commercial viability of the developed solutions.

Systems that will be used to maintain, inspect, operate and decommission nuclear facilities (e.g. Fukushima Daiichi, ITER and DEMO) are expected to integrate hundreds of systems from multiple suppliers with a lifetime of several decades, over which requirements evolve and obsolescence management is required. 

Existing networked and cloud-based robotics, digital twins and tools, lack interoperability, heterogeneity, security, multi-robot management, common infrastructure design, maintainability, extensibility, quality-of-service (QoS), and standardisation.   

The objective of this challenge is to investigate the adequacy of the existing open standards and open architectures, and whether necessary to improve upon or create novel alternatives. The primary focus of this challenge will be on interfaces with synthetic environments, simulators and digital twins, including digital twin internal interfaces between various software components.  

CorteX is a software framework for interoperable, plug-and-play, distributed, robotic systems-of-systems developed at the UKAEA. 

We believe intelligent software verification tools that have been used in other safety and/or mission-critical domains can be adapted to software such as CorteX to demonstrate their potential contributions to nuclear decommissioning processes, and to gain nuclear regulators’ confidence in using digital tools. 

The aim of this challenge is to evaluate CorteX and to assess if it is assurable. We are interested in testing CorteX against some of the toughest existing software assurance standards to investigate its suitability to contribute to Challenge #1, to demonstrate the application of existing intelligent software verification tools for such tasks, and in doing so increase confidence in using digital tools in nuclear decommissioning. Alongside the application of established verification tools and methodologies, we wish to investigate the use of novel tools and techniques for the effective assessment and assurance of such software frameworks and systems of systems in this domain. 

A representative demonstration task will be agreed with the supplier. The design and development of suitable concept safety functions and monitors are expected to be a key output of this challenge. 

Remote decommissioning operations for entry into radioactive environments, e.g Fukushima site, often deploy flexible long-reach robots. For a successful operation to take place, several challenges need to be overcome, most of which relate to the environment and the robotic equipment. Firstly, the environment is often unstructured, cluttered, and uncertain which makes the prioritisation and optimisation of sequential tasks and path planning a non-trivial task. Furthermore, the deployed robotic equipment introduces further uncertainty in the position of robotic links and the end-effector. This is a particular concern for long, slender, flexible, high-payload articulated deployment booms. These types of manipulators often suffer from structural vibration, joint and link flexibility/deformation, and accumulated error due to the high degrees of freedom and radiation effects. 

The objective of this challenge is to research, develop and evaluate novel software, methods and systems that fall under the following categories: 

  • Multi-objective strategic task sequencing and path-planning. The aim is to develop novel digital and computational tools to support the optimisation of task sequencing and path planning in complex and uncertain operating settings, prior to the initiation of actual operations. 
  • Path planning system for remote operations. The aim is to provide automatic collision avoidance and dynamic collision free motion planning systems to support operator-in-the-loop and semi-autonomous remote operations. The developed solution shall demonstrate a reduction in operator mental loading,  
  • Estimation, control, and apparatus for flexible long reach manipulators. The aim is to improve positional accuracy & repeatability for long flexible manipulators. Solutions may consider appropriate modelling methods, novel sensors to augment estimation algorithms, mechanical devices, and advanced control algorithms.   

This challenge aims at developing a virtual haptic-enabled platform for operator training and assessment along with task development and improvement for remote robotic operations commonly conducted in the nuclear industry. The haptic digital twin (HDT) must be applicable to several representative telemanipulation tasks considered part of high-level goals such as cleaning of contaminated sites, repurposing and decommissioning of nuclear devices, etc. A primary output of the research to be conducted is to improve support of these tasks in the virtual space. 

The purpose of the haptic training simulator consists in presenting the operator with scenarios encountered during real operation, this includes simulation of faults and other undesired behaviours typically encountered in physical setups. In this way, the operators’ proficiency level can be enhanced by providing haptic feedback during simulated unexpected conditions where generating physical mock-ups for such training purposes is not possible. Developing of a complex HDT also requires examining delivery of novel and reliable techniques for incorporating haptic rendering on the manipulation of non-rigid, flexible items such as cabling, soft plastics, and any other soft components. Innovative developments in training and mock-up capabilities, tailored to maximise benefits to the proposed training are expected. 

The main aim of this challenge is to investigate, propose, develop, and deliver an extensible, virtual platform for tele-manipulation, consisting primarily of a haptics enabled simulation / mock-up, with capability to interface to haptic devices (or bespoke local manipulators used by operators during real task execution) and visualisation tools. 

Within historical nuclear facilities, exact contents and location of items within rooms and isolators/gloveboxes is not necessarily recorded. In disaster sites such as Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the contents and structure of the environment is unknown due to limited data being available following disaster and subsequent activities. Moreover, due to high levels of radiation, there may be changes within the environment over a period of time such as material properties and chemical changes. Additional changes may also occur as a result of the robotic operations being conducted, component wear, mechanical failures of robots, etc.  

By integrating robust, real-time data gathered from visual, geometric, radiation, temperature, acoustic sensors, etc into digital twins we expect to enhance awareness of the unstructured environments, hence providing the operator with real-time decision support tools that would help de-risking operations. 

The aim of this challenge is to develop novel sensor fusion and perception algorithms, tracking techniques and, prediction tools for automated change/ anomaly detection. 

Get the latest updates

Each opportunity will be advertised through a Contract Notice on uk.eu-supply.com.

All interest, requests to participate and enquiries should be submitted to the named Procurement Representative identified in the advertisements. To be able to work on a response you will have to register and log in.

LongOps is equally funded by UKRI, TEPCO and the NDA.

LongOps is equally funded by UKRI, TEPCO and the NDA

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