Forth Engineering develops a remotely-operated disinfecting robot

A ROBOT capable of rapidly disinfecting large areas has been demonstrated by a world-first solutions business to help the UK navigate a safe route back from lockdown.

Forth Engineering in Cumbria is known for its innovations to solve complex industry challenges all over the world in the nuclear, oil and gas, renewables and other sectors.

Now Forth managing director Mark Telford and his team have responded to the fight against COVID-19, and the challenge of society finding a safe way back from lockdown, by developing a remotely-operated disinfecting robot.

The first disinfecting robot to roll off its production line was demonstrated inside  Whitehaven Civic Hall on Friday (May 22). The robot is able to be worked remotely, controlled from a safe distance, to disinfect any area – inside or outside – to help the country safely emerge from lockdown.

“It can be used in offices, warehouses, transport hubs, schools, shopping complexes, or on the streets, anywhere inside or outside, wherever it’s required,” said Mark. “It can be deployed in any building or any area before people return after lockdown to make sure the space they are going back to is safe to use and can be regularly re-used to decontaminate areas whether that’s once a week or several times a day. We’ve put together our tracked robot, with a vapour cannon, camera and lights, and developed the first one in a matter of weeks. It’s an amazing bit of kit. I took it to one of our sites and it disinfected 68,000 square feet in just 20 minutes.”

Forth has a global reputation for its innovative solutions, saving lives by inventing robots to carry out hazardous tasks, instead of putting people into dangerous areas.  Forth’s head of special projects Ben Telford and project engineer James Trythall were brought out of furlough to work on new products in the fight against coronavirus.

The disinfecting robot has now gone into production at Forth’s Maryport site with Sellafield Ltd having already placed an order. Radio-controlled, wireless and tetherless, the disinfecting robot can perform fogging or misting.

“It works in a similar way to a vapour cigarette in that it fires high-pressure vapour which will settle in every part of a designated area,” said Mark.

It has the ability to climb flights of stairs and can disinfect large areas in a matter of minutes. The technology can also be adapted for a range of other scenarios, such as being fitted with UV Light, or whatever application is required to fight coronavirus.

Mark said: “The way we like to work is that if people have a problem, we come up with solutions. That’s our skill-set. That’s what we do. So if people are interested in this type of technology and think it could be adapted to help them, we would ask them to get in touch, and that’s what we’ll get to work on. If someone wants it to climb up several flights of stairs, be controlled from a particularly long-distance, or be fitted with different applications, we can adapt it to suit their requirements.”

“We are known across the industry for responding quickly and coming up with quick, cost-efficient solutions which are ready to go. Our unique skills and exacting standards have been developed over the last 20 years of solving complex issues on the Sellafield site, with our proven products tried and tested in the nuclear industry,” said Mark.

Sellafield Ltd has purchased two of Forth’s decontamination fogging cannons and is testing the equipment at an off-site location in Cleator Moor. Sellafield Ltd is looking to Forth’s solution-focused technology to help contribute to the safe and confident return to work of its workforce at a range of locations. Forth Engineering and Sellafield Ltd are sharing collective learning from the technology among the specialist engineering and remote handling community to develop innovative industry-leading solutions.

Forth’s recent projects include working to develop a world-first Friction Stir Welding Robotic Crawler (FSWbot) for internal repair and refurbishment of pipelines which can be used by a range of industries without having to stop production.

It has also recently worked with partners on developing the pioneering Hullguard system of protecting floating offshore installations from corrosion without using divers which has been successfully deployed for the first time in the UK North Sea.

Forth is bucking the lockdown trend by expanding its offices with a £150,000 investment and actively recruiting for six roles – four mechanical/electrical engineers and two design engineers. It employs 54 people across Cumbria in Maryport, Barrow and Cleator Moor.


Forth Engineering (Cumbria) Ltd is an award-winning UK advanced technology solutions business with bases at Maryport, Barrow, and Cleator Moor in Cumbria.

Forth’s Avexis robot is a previous winner of the Best Academic Collaboration Award at the Innovus Awards backed by the National Nuclear Laboratory and The University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute to showcase pioneering technology being used in the industry.

Managing director Mark Telford is a former winner of the in-Cumbria Businessperson of The Year Award.

More like this