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SYFY WIRE Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics' robotic dog gets a job working an offshore oil rig

By Jeff Spry
Spot 3

See Spot walk. See Spot sit. See Spot roll over. See Spot run onto a Norwegian oil rig to sniff out lethal gas leaks!

Boston Dynamics' next-generation robotic device, affectionately nicknamed Spot, will soon be embarking on a new test mission aboard an offshore oil rig for petroleum product producer Aker BP and AI software company Cognite. The newly announced project will be rolled out to test a number of advanced robots and drones on Aker BP’s Skarv installation in the Norwegian Sea later this year.

Aker BP is embarking on this plan to get a "leg up" on the oil industry's digitalization process to make its operations safer and more effective by challenging Spot's ability to perform autonomous inspections, monitor systems, detect hydrocarbon leaks, collect data, and self-generate maintenance reports.

Spot 1

“Our vision is to digitalize all our operations from cradle to grave in order to increase productivity, enhance quality, and improve the safety of our employees,” Aker BP’s CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik said in a press release. “Exploring the potential of robotics offshore underpin our digital journey.”


Created as a multi-function mobile platform that can be fully customized according to its clients or owners' needs, Spot is a nimble quadruped robot equipped with a multi-eyed perception system that includes cameras and 3D sensors used to help navigate obstacles and survey rough terrain, allowing the intelligent machine to mount stairs and step over debris. Its sleek, sturdy legs are powered by 12 custom motors that let it trot along at a top speed of 1.6 meters per second.

“The key to Aker BP and Cognite’s robotics initiative is that it combines industry-leading hardware and software. By ingesting data collected by robots into Cognite Data Fusion, Aker BP engineers will be able to see it in context with data from across the company’s operations and make data-driven decisions that improve efficiency and safety,” said Dr. John Markus Lervik, CEO of Cognite.

Aside for the aforementioned tasks, Spot might also be required to carry out aerial and underwater inspections, provide immediate response to dangerous situations that go unnoticed by traditional automation, and generally complete hazardous work that takes humans safely out of harm’s way, all while providing onshore operators with remote telepresence capabilities on offshore installations.

“We’re excited to see innovative partners such as Cognite validating Spot’s ability to reduce risk to humans and provide value for the energy industry,” said Michael Perry, vice president of business development at Boston Dynamics.

Now if Spot can only be programmed to chase problematic cats off oil and gas platforms, that might be something to truly praise!