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Robotics in power industry companies leading the way

Robotics is the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots.  

Robots are machines capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, either programmed by a computer or using artificial intelligence.  

Advances in AI have enabled the development of robots, allowing them to become overly complex products rather than the standalone, fixed-function machines they used to be.  

This, in turn, has increased the number of roles that robots can perform. 

Robots have become progressively cheaper, smarter, more flexible and easier to train.  

This makes it easier for robots to infiltrate new industries and spawn new use cases at scale, including within the power industry.  

With compounding advances in technology, robots are being redefined as physically embodied artificial intelligence (AI) agents.  

Our GlobalData robotics dashboards bring you all the data and information on robotics in power and energy. 

Robotics-driven innovation in the power and energy sector

Research and innovation in robotics in the power industry operations and technologies sector have declined in the last quarter – but remain higher than it was a year ago. 

The most recent figures show that the number of robotics-related patent applications in the industry stood at 78 in the three months ending March – up from 55 over the same period in 2021. 

Figures for patent grants related to robotics followed a different pattern to filings – shrinking from 29 in the three months ending March 2021 to 19 in the same period in 2022. 

Analysing patent data in the energy and power sector 

The figures are compiled by GlobalData, which tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world.  

Using textual analysis, as well as official patent classifications, these patents are grouped into key thematic areas and linked to key companies across various industries.

Leaders and disruptors in robotics in the energy sector 

Robotics is one of the key areas tracked by GlobalData.  

It has been identified as being a key disruptive force facing companies in the coming years and is one of the areas that companies investing resources in now are expected to reap rewards from.  

The figures also provide an insight into the largest innovators in the sector. 

ABB was the top robotics innovator in the power industry operations and technologies sector in the latest quarter.  

The company, which has its headquarters in Switzerland, filed 36 robotics-related patents in the three months ending March.  

That was up from 24 over the same period in 2021. 

It was followed by the Germany-based Siemens with 29 robotics patent applications, South Korea-based Korea Electric Power Corp (five applications), and the US-based Honeywell International (four applications). 

Emerging robotic usage in the power sector

Robotics is witnessing an increasing presence across multiple industries, with the Energy and Utilities (E&U) industry no exception.  

Robotics is becoming an increasingly crucial tool in the E&U segment, largely for keeping their operations functional and optimised.  

This was especially pertinent during the Covid-19 pandemic, when remote monitoring of power infrastructure, with minimal operators at the site, was made possible with the help of robots and drones.  

Other than its applications across various segments such as transmission and distribution (T&D), wind, solar, nuclear, and thermal, robotics is making its way in disruptive applications.  

This includes helping with faster renewable energy installations, automated cable jointing for underground applications, revolutionising utility excavation systems, and undertaking repair of confined places of pressure vessels. 

Tech vendors in the power industry robotics

Our leader and disruptor lists for each theme are based on our analysts’ in-depth knowledge of the theme and the players involved in that theme.  

These are based on subjective opinions supported by research and analysis.  

Leader lists consider global market share, position in the value chain, and ability to react to emerging, disruptive trends.  

Disruptor lists consider funding, strategic partnerships, and the track record of the management team. 

Growth forecasts for power robotics companies

According to GlobalData forecasts, the robotics industry was worth $45.3bn in 2020. By 2030, it will have grown at a CAGR of 29% to $568bn. Annual growth rates will peak at 37% in 2024

Sales of industrial robots hit $14.6bn in 2020, equivalent to 32% of the total robotics market.  

By 2030, this segment will be worth $352bn, having grown at a CAGR of 38% between 2020 and 2030. 

At $30.7bn in 2020, the service robot market was larger than the industrial robots sector.  

However, the industrial robots market will grow faster over the next decade.  

In the power sector, the number of robotics patents increased consistently over the last decade. In 2020, 402 robotics patents were granted across all geographies, which compares with 133 patents granted in 2010.

The robotics patent filings also grew steadily during the period 2010-2020, from 182 in 2010 to 482 in 2020.

The robotics industry will grow at a CAGR of 29% between 2020 and 2030.

Value chain for energy companies using robotics 

Depending on the application, level of sophistication, and reliability requirements, robotics generally involves several levels of control and processing, including onboard hardware and software, and increasingly, cloud processing and the pooling of knowledge from multiple robots. 

Robots also need to be able to sense their surroundings. Depending on the application, they may also need sensors sensitive to touch, heat, light, vibration, sound, and even certain chemicals.  

Many of these sensors will only be available from specialist manufacturers, with their own R&D priorities and strategic goals. 

Mechanical components are another important element of a robot. They need to be precise, reliable, robust and consume as little power as possible.  

In many cases, motors and other mechanical components also need to act as sensors, providing feedback to the robot’s processing system to allow it to move more accurately.  

Companies such as Maxon, Keyence, Nabtesco, Omron, Harmonic Drive, Nachi-Fujikoshi, and Nippon Ceramic are all important suppliers to the wider robotics industry. 

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