Traditional inspection of industrial plants has become a primordial industrial policy in order to warranty the quality and reliability. However, inspection is a costly and time consuming process that often involves a reduction, or a total stop of the production process, in order to allow the specialized inspectors to access the infrastructures to inspect.
Remote inspection is presently a key feature on the daily industrial process, being normal the use of sophisticated equipment capable of working on long distances (specialized cameras and long range sensors), as well as use of expensive methods to make close up inspections. This is the case for manned helicopters, carrying the necessary equipment and sensors that help a specialist to judge the necessity of maintenance actions.
Due to the growing developments on communications, payload capacity, flight time and low-cost production, small scale Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, has become an alternative on the daily inspections process, in which they are used as a remote sensor, usually operated from a ground station. They allow the operator or the specialized inspector to make close up approximations on detailed interest points using an onboard camera wirelessly controlled, or the analysis of other sensors, like gas analyzer, temperature and pressure sensor among others.
Currently, there is a variety of enterprises on the market that sell and operate small scale UAVs for inspection and maintenance. However, often these are specialized solutions designed according to each one of the customer requirements, that do not allow them to be practical, low-cost systems suitable for commercial usage.
The aim of this proposal is to exploit the growing interest and convenience of use of small scale UAV on daily inspection process, by developing a series of self enclosed specialized and complementary modules and applications suitable for a large variety of commercial small scale UAV currently on the market.
Each one of these modules and applications, will be focused on exploiting the information given by visual sensors and conventional cameras in order to automate different process involved in the operation of the UAV, in which are included: mosaic map construction, visual navigation based on maps, video stabilization, image tracking and servoing, 3D pose estimation base on vision, and autonomous landing among others.
Different and complementary modules will be developed in order to be able to add additional autonomous capabilities to a variety of UAVs. These modules, self-enclosed, will be integrated on different and independent control and communications architectures, allowing them to build a modular application system for UAV. This modular scheme will allow a generic UAV to be easily adjusted for different kind of mission and inspections operations, making a considerably reduction on the equipment and system cost and allowing a reduced cost on the UAV based inspection process.
Complementary, we will also develop a full modular system composed of our own commercial small scale UAV, capable of autonomous navigation and ready to use any one of our visual systems add on. This will be a commercial self-enclosed and ready to flight product, integrating a default set of modules (like video stabilization, mosaic map building, visual tracking and others) that fulfils the normal necessities of daily industrial inspection, and also permits additional modules to be added (thermal sensing, 3D pose and navigation, autonomous landing, etc) according to the most demanding applications and customer requirements.
This proposal is based on the integration and use of the advances in the state of the art developed by one of the pioneer research groups on the use of visual information on the control of UAV and the industry and maker knowledge of a small scale UAV manufactured in Europe.
Computer Vision Group-