Imagine people having to climb scaffolds or hang from safety lines when inspecting different types of infrastructure, for example wind turbines, bridges, tunnels, or high chimneys. Most probably, such inspections are costly, time consuming, and above all dangerous to the people performing them. However, there is a technical solution for this: autonomously working robots remotely semi-supervised from human inspectors. The robots would not only localise faults, but also do some initial maintenance actions and hence significantly the overall inspection and maintenance downtimes will be significantly reduced.
– Within the framework of AERO-TRAIN, we will educate the future’s researchers in the field of aerial robotics. The project will support 15 PhD students, spread all over the consortium, and they will focus on the area of aerial robots that can carry manipulators and interact with the surrounding environment in inspection and maintenance tasks, says George Nikolakopoulos.
To achieve the visionary results, some of the most important academic players in aerial robotics have joined forces; project AERO-TRAIN is currently the biggest educational activity in aerial robotics in Europe.
– The project is a continuation of what we have already achieved. Three years ago, we showed the world that the vision could be realised when we demonstrated a full collaborative autonomous inspection of a wind turbine for the first time ever within in the project AEROWORKS. Now we are pushing the underlying technologies further, with a special focus on PhD education, says George Nikolakopoulos.
At Luleå University of Technology the research carried out will mainly be about advanced intelligent control of aerial vehicles and how 5G connectivity can enable fully autonomous aerial inspections of ageing infrastructure.
– We will also focus on enhancing the experience to the operators with tools from Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality. I believe that we are building the future of human robot interaction with this project, says George Nikolakopoulos and emphasizes the importance of the project’s strong university network:
– It is one of the most advanced consortia in the field of drones and we have the ability to create a real impact. The optimum goal is to see already companies to start utilizing these technologies in their inspection and maintenance operations.