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Sensors 2019, 19(6), 1305; https://doi.org/10.3390/s19061305

Novel Aerial Manipulator for Accurate and Robust Industrial NDT Contact Inspection: A New Tool for the Oil and Gas Inspection Industry

1
CATEC (Advanced Center for Aerospace Technologies), C/ Wilbur y Orville Wright 19, 41309 La Rinconada, Seville, Spain
2
School of Engineering, University of Seville, Avda. Camino de los Descubrimientos, 41092 Seville, Spain
3
La Línea Vertical, Camino de la Ermita 10, 11300 La Línea de la Concepción, Cádiz, Spain
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 15 February 2019 / Revised: 8 March 2019 / Accepted: 10 March 2019 / Published: 15 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sensing in Oil and Gas Applications)
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Abstract

There is a strong demand in the oil and gas industry to develop alternatives to manual inspection. This paper presents AeroX, a novel aerial robotic manipulator that provides physical contact inspection with unprecedented capabilities. AeroX has a semi-autonomous operation, which provides interesting advantages in contact inspection. In the free-flight mode, the pilot guides the robot until performing contact with its end-effector on the surface to be inspected. During contact, AeroX is in its fully-autonomous global navigation satellite system (GNSS)-free contact–flight mode, in which the robot keeps its relative position w.r.t. the surface contact point using only its internal sensors. During autonomous flight, the inspector can move—with uninterrupted contact—the end-effector on the surface for accurately selecting the points where to perform A-scan measurements or continuous B-scan or C-scan inspections. AeroX adopts an eight-tilted rotor configuration and a simple and efficient design, which provides high stability, maneuverability, and robustness to rotor failure. It can perform contact inspection on surfaces at any orientation, including vertical, inclined, horizontal-top or horizontal-bottom, and its operation can be easily integrated into current maintenance operations in many industries. It has been extensively validated in outdoor experiments including a refinery and has been awarded the EU Innovation Radar Prize 2017. View Full-Text
Keywords: aerial; robot; manipulator; contact; inspection; NDT; ultrasonic; oil and gas; UAV aerial; robot; manipulator; contact; inspection; NDT; ultrasonic; oil and gas; UAV
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Trujillo, M.Á.; Martínez-de Dios, J.R.; Martín, C.; Viguria, A.; Ollero, A. Novel Aerial Manipulator for Accurate and Robust Industrial NDT Contact Inspection: A New Tool for the Oil and Gas Inspection Industry. Sensors 2019, 19, 1305.

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