Special Issue on Robots for in-situ interventions: From innovative approaches to industrial applications

Background and motivation

Conventionally, robot manufacturers focused their attention on automation of the production lines for brand-new products and/or repetitive tasks; as these are developed mainly for “open spaces” (e.g. large workshops) their ability to access confined spaces is limited from both dimensional and number of DoF point of view.

However, it seems that limited attention has been paid to the development of necessary robotic systems to assist with post-production works such as maintenance and repair.

Some key industries rely on post-production treatments (e.g. maintenance, repair) to sustain their business to: 

  • Ensure safe running of complex installations (e.g. nuclear power plants), highly engineered products (e.g. aero-engines) or civil engineering assets (e.g. bridges).
  • Avoid cost penalties associated with possible down-times of equipment (e.g. shut down of power plants, offshore oil rigs) that provide critical inputs (e.g. gas, electricity, oil) to wide range of industries.
  • To comply with health and safety when post-production operations are performed on some installations (e.g. works at heights, underwater, chemical exposure, restrained spaces, explosive environments).
  • To respond to the need in performing “against the clock” treatments on industrial equipment under constrained/dangerous environments (e.g. submersed installations or offshore rigs).

As such, due to the large scale of these key installations (e.g. power plants, offshore oil & gas platforms), most of the time, the post-production (e.g. maintenance/repair) works are performed in-situ and thus, the use of “off-the-shelf” robots to carry out such tasks might not be possible. 

Moreover, most of these post-production works require multi-task operations such as inspection, sampling, machining, metrological assessments; all these aspects indicate that there is not a simple solution for having an adequate tooling system if holistic (overall) in-situ treatments have to be done.

SI Robots for in situ interventionsThus, it becomes apparent that the development of innovative robotised solutions for performing in-situ holistic post-production works, on capital intensive and long service life equipment is of critical importance for ensuring safe and economical operation of key industrial sectors.

In such instances, the lack of appropriate robotic systems to perform holistic post-productions operations (e.g. inspection & maintenance & repair) in a versatile manner to cover a large field of applications not only results in insufficient exploitation of the existing installations but also hinders the development of new and ever-more sophisticated technologies (e.g. energy, aerospace, construction).

In the above context, it seems that a niche technology is that of miniature robotised machine systems to address holistic inspection, maintenance and repair works in restricted/hazardous environments.Miniature robotised machines refer here as advanced robotic systems that are able to navigate/access in-situ industrial installations and perform multi-task operations (e.g. inspection, removal/additive processing) for holistic in-situ maintenance/repair of complex installations. 

Call for papers

This Special Issue aims to select a set of recent advances in specialist robotics dedicated to in-situ interventions with emphasis to those solutions that not only perform “passive” (e.g. inspection) tasks but also able to perform “active” (e.g. machining, welding, etc) tasks.

To topics to be considered in this special issue include, but not limited to:

  • Design and modelling of novel concepts of robots for in-situ interventions
  • Control of robotics for navigation and manipulation of in-situ hazardous environments
  • Autonomous or teleoperated robots for in-situ interventions
  • Human-robot interaction to support operation of robots for in-situ interventions
  • Collaborative robots for performing complex tasks in-situ structured/unstructured environments
  • Smart mechatronics, including end-effectors, and sensing that enable robotic in-situ interventions
  • Others…


The Guest Editors aim to select those contributions that have clear evidence on their ability to perform real (near) industrial in-situ interventions. Through this, it is hoped that the academic and industrial community will get excited about the challenges and opportunities offered by robotics for in-situ interventions.

Important Dates

1 May 2018 - Deadline for paper submission
1 August 2018 - First review
20 November 2018 - Final review
March 2019 - Publication

Guest Editors

Dragos Axinte portrait
Dragos Axinte
SI on Robots for in situ interventions
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, UK
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Xilun Ding portrait
Xilun Ding
SI on Robots for in situ interventions
Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Beijing, China
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Ian Walker portrait
Ian Walker
SI on Robots for in situ interventions
Clemson University
Clemson (SC), USA
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