Advanced Center for Aerospace Technologies developed a new aerial robotic manipulator capable of inspect physical contact with unmatched efficiency
The oil and gas industry uses a wide range of measures to ensure the safety of its personnel and facilities, while controlling the related costs. These procedures include wide-ranging inspections, especially those conducted at height and with sensors that operate by contacting with the surfaces under inspection. Technicians usually conduct contact inspection, which involves accessing the specific inspection points with the help of man-lifts, cranes or scaffolds, or rope-access techniques. However, contact inspections require high investment, which therefore, increases the need for alternative solutions.
Now, a team of researchers from Advanced Center for Aerospace Technologies and University of Seville developed AeroX: a new aerial robotic manipulator that can be used in contact inspection. The device is semi-autonomous and a pilot is required to guide it to a specified target for inspection. The robot uses global navigation satellite system (GNSS) to navigate. When the device contacts the desired target or area, the pilot switches to autonomous GNSS-free contact flight. The robot can now maneuver freely with uninterrupted contact and can keep steady w.r.t. the surface contact point. The inspection operator can control the end-effector wheels on the surface during the contact flight to allow the robot to maintain uninterrupted contact.
This approach can be used to accurately choose the points to perform inspections. The data from the device can be integrated to any maintenance programs currently used in several industries. The device can only be controlled by the pilot and the inspector, with each individual tasked with clear and different roles. Moreover, the inspector does not require any training in robotics. The simple, efficient, and robust design of AeroX allows regular use in fully working conditions. The robot has tilted-rotor configuration for high maneuverability and the overall design allows to perform contact inspection on surfaces in vertical, inclined, horizontal-top or horizontal-bottom orientation. The research was published in the journal MDPI Sensors on March 15, 2019.
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