Canadian robotics firm in Costa Concordia salvage

A robotics firm based in Waterloo, Ont. is helping a multi-national salvage team haul away the 115,000 cruise ship Costa Concordia which ran aground off the shore of the Italian town of Giglio.

The salvage crew, which started the operation early Monday, is relying on the 2G Robotics Inc.’s underwater laser scanners attached to a robotic arm to get a clearer 3D image of the ship’s damaged hull which is currently up against a reef. Without this, engineers will not be able to take precise measurements underwater needed to attach floats on the Costa Concordia in order to right the listing ship, according to Jason Gilham, founder and CEO of 2G Robotics.

Data obtained by the underwater laser scanners will also enable engineers to avoid potential risks of an ecological disaster during the operation, he said.

The team from 2G Robotics will join engineers and workers from 23 other nations as part of the 500-member salvage team working on the capsized ship.

The Costa Concordia made international headlines in January 2012, when it ran aground in the shores of Giglio. Thirty three people were killed in the mishap. For two years now, the ship has been laying partially submerged in the same spot. The ship has a 70-metre long gash in its hull.

The salvage operation is expected to take 12 hours.

The plan is to use crank-pulleys and massive still chains to attach tanks filled with water on the exposed side of the Costa Concordia in order to right the ship. The method is called parbuckling.

The ship will then be towed away from the rocks and later dismantled.

Laser scanners are 100 times better than traditional underwater sonar scanners, according to 2G Robotics. The technology can better determine the structure of structures underwater.

While sonar can capture complete 3D digital point-cloud representations of underwater environments, the technology’s resolution is limited because it has difficulty recognizing features such as small cracks, erosion signs and dents, according to 2G Robotics. Laser scanners are not affected by these limitations and can capture these details.

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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