Within the PILOTING project, an aerial robot has been developed, AEROCAM, which has just carried out its first validation tests

Increasing the efficiency of inspection and maintenance activities to preserve the necessary security levels of civil infrastructures aged by the passage of time has become a challenge. This is precisely the objective of the European research project PILOTING, made up of a consortium of 13 companies and institutions 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 launch in January 2020, PILOTING has worked on the adaptation, integration and demonstration of robotic solutions to increase the efficiency of inspection and maintenance activities in aging 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 the use case of visual inspection of a railway viaduct in Álora, Málaga.

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 with respect to it thanks to its onboard sensors in order to carry out the inspection missions.

Subsequently, some inspection flights were carried out in the vicinity of the 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 has an integrated positioning system using a LIDAR sensor, which allows us 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 its robotic solutions into a single platform, which will be tested and evaluated in pilot tests in order to apply the real requirements of the end users of these technologies, increasing the safety of operators and reducing costs and time of inspection tasks. And maintenance.

To date, this platform represents an important technological challenge as it integrates an analysis system with artificial intelligence, the management of information from heterogeneous robots, and a visualization and analysis web tool, among others.