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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Award for wall-climbing 'robot' developed by Maryport firm

A remotely-operated wall-climbing vehicle, designed for use in toxic environments, clinched a top award for WallRover of Maryport.

WallRover photo
Dr Gary Sewell and Richard Smith with WallRover

The engineering company won the innovation award for small and medium-sized enterprises at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) inaugural Supply Chain Awards in Bolton.

The judges selected WallRover’s ROV – remotely-operated vehicle – because of its unique wall-scaling ability and innovative features that make it lighter, quicker, cheaper and safer to operate than alternatives.

The design has been in development for 14 years.

It is the idea of Dr Gary Sewell who spent eight years in the US specialising in ROVs.

His aim was to develop a wall-climbing vehicle that could be manufactured in his native Cumbria and used in nuclear decommissioning at Sellafield and elsewhere.

He returned in 2009 and approached Rodney Smith, of Smith Engineering in Maryport, who provided the workspace to develop prototypes.

Dr Sewell said: “I remembered seeing Rodney on The 5 O’clock Show with Richard Hammond demonstrating his moon-buggy ROV.

“Rodney is creative with his engineering skills, inventive and tenacious and he was very supportive through the development stages.”

WallRover Ltd was formed last December.

Its first vehicle, the WallRover A, was commissioned by Sellafield Ltd as a look-and-see inspection tool.

It includes an on-board camera and the world’s smallest USB-powered gamma spectrometer.

Powered through a 20-metre umbilical cord, it can be used in difficult-to-reach places, removing the need for scaffolding or human intervention.

The innovation award recognises solutions that deliver tangible benefits to the NDA.

The judges said: “We were impressed by the range of innovation being demonstrated.

“However, we felt that one innovation stood out from the rest and typified the dedication needed to bring an idea to fruition – that innovation was WallRover.”

The company has a patent pending and its ROV is already attracting interest beyond Sellafield from other establishments.

Dr Sewell said: “We have had such a positive response and great feedback but, most of all, we are delighted that our part in the supply chain is making a difference.

“We are already developing the next generation and look forward to the future.”

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