FOXIRIS Success in the first competition of ARGOS Challenge

In the week running from 22 to 26 June the first competition of the ARGOS Challenge was held, an international competition financed by the French oil and gas company TOTAL with the aim of promoting the use of mobile robotics in oil and gas sites.

Argos I

The GMV-led FOXIRIS team, also involving the participation of the Portuguese company IDMind and UPM-CAR, arrived in Pau late on the night of Sunday 21 June after making last-minute tweaks in GMV’s Martian Terrarium in Madrid. The 11-strong team sent to France took along with them two vans, the FOXIRIS robot, its control center and sundry auxiliary material to take on the various trials posed in a long and demanding week of competition.

The first day was given over to workshop installation and the mandatory robot homologation phase. Weighing in at 86 Kg (weight capped at 100 Kg) and less than 35cm wide, FOXIRIS easily fulfilled TOTAL’s weight and width restrictions. The next stage was a check of the robot’s safety system, which it came through with flying colors (a total of four different emergency stops from the robot site and remotely from the control center, using both UHF radio and Wi-Fi). Lastly, on this first day, an in-situ check was made of FOXIRIS’s ability to stop automatically when any unknown obstacle crops up. This set of tests ensured proper compliance with the competition requirement that every robot should be capable of working in an environment with human operators and performing emergency stops safely.

Argos II

Tuesday 23 June was given over to a test of the robot’s artificial vision capabilities, taking readings of manometers, pressure levels and checking the position of valves (opened or closed). FOXIRIS performed well, recognizing various pressure levels from different angles and under changing lighting conditions.

Days 24 and 25 June involved a detailed test of the five participating robots’ behavior, both in missions set up from the control center and under remote-operation conditions. During these days FOXIRIS demonstrated its capacity of climbing a single step up to the industrial platform and attempting runs autonomously while taking various readings from diverse check points. On the remote-operation mission the robot had to prove itself capable of switching to manual mode to ensure operators can control the different advance, turning and control modes of the front, central and back tracks, skirting obstacles and seeking new targets marked by jury members. The robot’s cameras also proved capable of giving front and side views of the surroundings, enabling operators to position themselves within the ground floor of the platform. The different laser and infrared sensors (2D and ToF) proved perfectly capable of precise, immediate and real-time mapping of the surrounding environment.

Argos III

The last day of the competition was the endurance test. For over 2 hours, and in a closed circuit, FOXIRIS clocked up a top speed of over 2km/h to test both the robot’s endurance and energy consumption. FOXIRIS distinguished itself by its exceptional endurance, finishing the test with an additional energy reserve of three hours.

FOXIRIS has therefore completed the first competition of the three scheduled for the ARGOS challenge, showcasing its initial capabilities and technology. FOXIRIS has made its mark; in upcoming months activities will be geared towards increasing its tracking, navigation and inspection capabilities and also fine tuning its design to take on the challenge of working in a potentially explosive atmospheres ahead of the next competition to be held in March 2016.