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A remotely controlled autonomous walking and climbing robot for faster and safer landslide monitoring, slope stability analysis and consolidation.

Final Report Summary - SAFERDRILL (A remotely controlled autonomous walking and climbing robot for faster and safer landslide monitoring, slope stability analysis and consolidation)

The overall objective of SAFERDRILL is to develop a climbing robot able to remotely operate in harsh environments while performing deep drilling. During the first reporting period the main activities were concentrated on the definition of the requirements for the system and its single components, on the design of the conceptual design of the different modules, on the selection of the best solutions and configurations, on the manufacturing of the climbing and drilling modules of the prototype, on the design and development of the remote control system.

The system requirements are fully defined according to the original work programme, taking also in account the severe condition where the system will operate. These requirements represent the set of specifications used in the conceptual design of the system and in the definition of the control architecture. During the first period, the conceptual design of the main components of the robotic system has been completed and final configuration selected for each module. At the start of the activities the consortium decided to manufacture directly the final prototypes of the modules, when possible, to minimise consumable costs. This was possible thanks to the complete virtual prototyping developed for each component that allows to detect most of the possible issues already during the design phase and to guarantee a final integration of the different modules. The consortium decided also to concentrate the prototyping efforts in the first period on the most fundamental modules, in order to start as soon as possible with some basic tests of the assembled system: the legged robotic platform module, the drilling module, the control system module, the human machine interface modules have been fully prototyped.

The remaining three modules have been only defined during the first period and have been completed on the second period. During the first year of the project, the rope tensioning device modules have been completely design; a final configuration has been selected among the different proposed; a first laboratory prototype started to be constructed. The navigation system module has been completely designed. Finally the specification, sensors and signals, human-machine interface (HMI) of the geotechnical knowledge-based system module have been defined.

On the second reporting period the consortium spent important resources, both economic terms and in terms of men hours, to perform important modification and improvement on these modules (legged robotic platform, drilling module, control system module, human machine interface module) and to test the SAFERDRILL system in different working conditions. The SAFERDRILL system complexity and the fact that it needs to work on severe out-door environment requested the redesign of several components, the improvement of the robustness of hydraulic, electrical and mechanical parts, as well as the constant update of the different control modules. In parallel with these activities, full scale prototype of the SAFERDRILL remaining modules (rope tensioning devices, navigation system, and geotechnical knowledge system), only designed in the first year, have been fully developed, manufactured and tested.

An innovative rope tensioning device module has been manufactured and successfully tested. It is able to be controlled by remote and allows motion inversion as a tiny control of position of the SAFERDRILL platform. Moreover it is able to work safely in harsh condition. The development of this module was very challenging and involved the participation of all partners as it needed experience not only on mechanics but also on hydraulics and electric control. From the first tests of the SAFERDRILL robotic platform, the consortium realised that a better control of the rope tensioning devices was fundamental for the practical use of the SAFERDRILL platform on the field. For these reasons it was decided to give priority to the development of this module and all partners agreed to provide all the necessary resources until a full scale prototype has been successfully tested. The results of this effort were so promising that the consortium decided to deposit a request for a patent, aiming to protect the innovations developed.

Moreover on the second reporting period the design of navigation system module has been completed and a fully scale prototype manufactured. The system has been tested at laboratory scale demonstrating that the major requirements were achieved: the hardware has been developed to be insensible to vibration, dust, rain and shocks contemporaneously a flexible control interface has been developed to take in account the different light conditions and allows the user to tune camera setting accordingly. A three-dimensional (3D) imaging processing software has been developed enabling the automatic extraction of depth.

On the second project period the geotechnical knowledge system has been completed and tested. A set of distributed sensors, able to work in hard and harsh environment, has been installed on the SAFERDRILL robotic platform and connected with the on-bard control unit. In parallel, dedicated software has been developed to read and analyse the data from the sensors and give in real time the necessary information to the operator to perform the correct operations.