A £36 million project involving Heriot Watt and Edinburgh universities is to develop robots to work in hazardous offshore environments.

The new machines will limit the need for people to work in dangerous areas to inspect, repair and maintain offshore energy platforms.

The Offshore Robotics for Certification of Assets Hub (ORCA) involves Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh, three other universities and dozens of industry bodies.

It is to create “robot-assisted asset inspection and maintenance technologies ... capable of making autonomous and semi-autonomous decisions and interventions across aerial, topside and marine domains”.

Professor David Lane, director of the ORCA Hub, said: “The offshore workforce is ageing as the new generation of qualified graduates seek less hazardous onshore opportunities.

“The goal is to develop shore-operated autonomous and semi-autonomous solutions for inspection, maintenance and decommissioning of offshore energy infrastructure using robotic systems.”

Project leaders also believe new technology is needed to keep the offshore industry economically viable.