Increasing efficiency of inspection and maintenance tasks to keep necessary security levels of ageing civil infrastructure has become a challenge. This is precisely the objective of the European research project PILOTING, made up of a consortium of 13 companies and entities from Spain, Greece, Switzerland, France, Norway and the Netherlands, and led by the Andalusian Foundation for Aerospace Development and the Advanced Center for Aerospace Technologies, FADA-CATEC.
Since its launching in January 2020, PILOTING has worked on the adaptation, integration and demonstration of robotic solutions to increase efficiency of inspection and maintenance tasks in ageing civil infrastructure. This set of technologies is made up of 10 aerial and ground robots, including AEROCAM, an aerial robotic platform that has just carried out the first validation tests for visual inspection of a railway viaduct in Málaga, Spain.
The tests have focused on verifying the capacity of the aircraft to automatically locate itself with respect to the structure and autonomous flight, with the acquisition of images that allow the identification of possible pathologies in vertical parameters, such as the bridge pillars. Making use of a previous twin three-dimensional model of the viaduct, AEROCAM was able to locate itself thanks to its on-board sensors in order to carry out inspection tasks.
In addition, some inspection flights were carried out around pillars and always below the underside of the deck, also with this platform, which is equipped with a professional photography camera on an image stabilization system. AEROCAM also counts on an integrated positioning system using a LIDAR sensor, which allows to locate the aircraft with respect to the bridge in environments where geolocation is not possible.
Finally, with the images obtained, it was possible to test the algorithms for the automatic location of defects in the infrastructure. The result of these algorithms is of special value for the end users/companies responsible for the maintenance of the infrastructure during its useful life, being able to monitor them over time.
PILOTING will integrate all these robotic solutions into a single platform, which will be tested and evaluated in order to apply real requirements of the end users of these technologies, increasing safety of operators and saving costs and time of inspection and maintenance tasks. To date, this platform represents an important technological challenge as it integrates an analysis system with artificial intelligence, information management from heterogeneous robots, and a visualization and analysis web tool, among others.