Smart Maintenance Labs
Mobile robotics are currently already playing a major role in maintenance of industrial installations, yet several significant challenges limit the adoption of mobile robotics for maintenance. Maintenance for industrial installations is not only limited to installations and parts on the ground. Also at height there are parts that need to be inspected and maintained. The use of drones is obvious.
One of the major challenges within the maintenance industry is accurate positioning of mobile robots in enclosed indoor environments. In enclosed indoor environments GPS positioning data is not available and other technologies are needed to enable the mobile robot to retrieve its position in the environment.
Within the Smart Maintenance Labs project Avular is involved as technology partner and is exploring the application of Avular’s indoor positioning systems for the use in industrial (indoor) environments. Avular has been working on two sub-projects:
A specific situation where the use of drones is very desirable is in the maintenance of tanks in the petrochemical industry. Harmful and dangerous substances are regularly stored in the tanks that are bad for the health of people who come into contact with them. To prevent people from having to work in this dangerous and unhealthy situation, the aim is to be able to carry out the inspections on the inside of these tanks with a drone completely autonomously. A major challenge here is the localization. Positioning in such a tank without human intervention is very difficult. A very promising technique to achieve this localization is Ultra Wide Band (UWB), a technique that is essentially based on sending radio frequency signals from a particular beacon with a known location to the drone. Avular has developed a test setup to validate the performance of the Ultra Wide Band technology inside petrochemical tanks. After careful analysis of the real-life measurement data sets from multiple petrochemical tanks, the conclusion was drawn that the metal interior of the petrochemical tanks caused too much reflections of the radio signals resulting in unusable positioning measurements. Together with the consortium it was decided to stop the explorations with Ultra Wide Band technology and focus on another positioning technology from Avular resulting in sub-project 2.
In sub-project 2 Avular’s Starling positioning system is evaluated for maintenance applications in the petrochemical industry. The Starling system is a vision-based position system that uses infrared beacons placed at known locations in the environment to extract the 6-DOF pose of a mobile robot. Starling’s accuracy and high update frequency allow for accurate positioning of drones in indoor environments. Within sub-project 2 the Starling system will be evaluated to provide accurate positioning data for a crawler robot that inspects and performs tasks on the vertical metal walls of large storage tanks. End 2022 the project will be finalized, and results will be presented.