ARGOS Challenge, TOTAL’s R&D initiative

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In Greek mythology Argos was the “all-seeing”, 100-eyed God. As such he might well have served as inspiration for the company TOTAL (the world’s 4th biggest oil & gas supplier) to launch the “ARGOS Challenge”. This acronym stands for “Autonomous Robot and Gas and Oil Sites” and the challenge itself is a robotics competition held by means of three rounds of trials over the last three years. The remit was to design develop and validate an autonomous surface robot to work on oil and gas sites, capable of inspecting and monitoring the industrial environment, pinpointing any anomalies and intervening in emergency scenarios: in other words, an “all-seeing” robot to warn us of any serious problems that might crop up.

Although preliminaries began back in December 2013 with the publication of the overall challenge and the receipt of proposals, the ARGOS competition itself kicked off in June 2015, with following challenge rounds in April 2016 and March 2017. After each of these rounds the international jury issued a technical report with various recommendations for each team and also updated the assessment criteria for the trials of the next round.

foxirisGMV has taken part in the competition by leading the FOXIRIS team, together with IDMind (a Portuguese mobile robotics prototype manufacturer) and UPM-CAR (the Automation and Robotics Center of Madrid Polytechnic University – Universidad Politécnica de Madrid).

After the 30 proposal-presenting teams had been whittled down to a shortlist of five, our rivals turned out to be AIR-K (Japan), ARGONAUTS (Austria and Germany), LIO (Switzerland) and VIKINGS (France). The first round of the ARGOS challenge was held in June 2015 in Lacq (France), where our robot successfully passed all type-approval tests in terms of required specifications such as weight, size and safety measures for working in environments with human operators. It came through all the tests with flying colors, demonstrating its capacities of speed, resistance and artificial vision, as well as robot behavior during risk situations.

The second round of the competition (April 2016) measured the robot’s anomaly-analysis and -detection capacity in a real environment such as a gas leak or communications system outage. The third and last round laid special stress on ATEX compliance (Explosive Atmospheres). The robot’s autonomy levels were also assessed, its response capacity and the reliability of recorded data, while at all times meeting the required safety criteria.

And just as the whole ARGOS Challenge kicked off in Paris in 2014, it came to an end in a closing ceremony held on 11 May of this year in Total’s Tour Coupole in Paris. This ceremony culminated these three years of challenges, and on an emotion-packed night the winning team was announced: the ARGONAUTS.  FOXIRIS (GMV/IDMind/UPM-CAR) received a prize in recognition of its participation in this exiting robotics challenge.

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TOTAL organized the ARGOS Challenge together with the French National Research Agency (ANR) with the aim of bringing robotics and industry closer together. The chance of bringing together academic and professional robotics experts and applying their minds to the real operational problems inherent to oil and gas exploration activities was a fine way of meeting this overall remit. Through the ARGOS Challenge TOTAL has shown its capacity of technological innovation and prowess, paving the way for the advent of robotics in this sector.

Author: Tatiana Teresa Pagola

Las opiniones vertidas por el autor son enteramente suyas y no siempre representan la opinión de GMV
The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of GMV
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