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HYbrid FLying-rollIng with-snakE-aRm robot for contact inSpection

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - HYFLIERS (HYbrid FLying-rollIng with-snakE-aRm robot for contact inSpection)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-09-30

Overview

HYFLIERS is a research and innovation action (RIA) of EU Horizon 2020 programme for advanced robot capabilities research and take-up, worth 3,9 million euro funding.

HYFLIERS aims is to develop the world's first industrial integrated robot with hybrid air and ground mobility with a long-reach hyper-redundant manipulator capable of reaching sites where no other robot can access, reducing the exposition of human inspectors to potentially dangerous working conditions. Targeting ultrasonic thickness measurements for oil and gas refineries and chemical plants, the results could be applied to many other robotic inspection technologies.

The consortium is composed of eight partners from Finland, Spain, Italy, France and Switzerland, including high reputation universities, research institutes, industrial partners with research and innovation development capabilities, and two world leader oil and gas industrial companies.

Objective

Focusing on non-destructive contact measurements but with potential application to a wider set of industrial scenarios, the scope of HYFLIERS project is to study and develop solutions to perform inspection measurements with reduced exposure to risks and costs, an accurate controlled hybrid aerial-ground robot equipped with an inspection sensor and supporting services for efficient and safe navigation in complex and safety-critical environments.

Motivation

In oil and gas production plants, all or part of the components are often subject to degradation caused by exposure to the environment or products within the production process. Excessive pipe corrosion may lead to accidents, including catastrophic failures with explosions and release of toxic products, thus having impact on safety, environment and availability of the plant.

Inspection processes for thickness measurements ensure that plants are in safe operating condition or provide alerts to execute necessary corrective actions. These measurements are traditionally executed by personnel that requires access to specific locations. Typically, more than 50% (and up to 90%) of these activities are carried out by working at elevated locations with the use of ladders, scaffold, rope access or cranes, and sometimes in presence of high temperatures or toxic materials. Obviously, this causes considerable costs for ensuring safety of inspection personnel but in some cases, casualties may occur. Moreover, anxiety and exposure to dangerous locations affects concentration and promote human errors.

There are safety, quality and cost drivers for novel inspection methods.

Consortium

University of Oulu (coordinator), Finland, www.oulu.fi https://www.oulu.fi/en/university/faculties-and-units/faculty-information-technology-and-electrical-engineering/biomimetics-and-intelligent-systems-group

University of Seville, Spain, http://www.us.es/ https://grvc.us.es/

Chevron Oronite, France, https://www.oronite.com/

TotalEnergies, France, https://totalenergies.com/ https://totalenergies.com/

Consorzio di Ricerca per l’Energia e le Tecnologie dell’Elettromagnetismo C.R.E.A.T.E. Italy, https://www.create.unina.it/ https://prisma.dieti.unina.it/

Advanced Center for Aerospace Technologies FADA-CATEC, Spain, http://www.catec.aero

Waygate Technologies Inspection Robotics, Switzerland, https://www.bakerhughes.com/waygate-technologies/robotic-inspection

Dasel sistemas, Spain, https://www.daselsistemas.com
The economic relevance of non-destructive testing (NDT) inspection in oil and gas industry has been constantly tracked. Specification of end-user requirements, including description, importance and success criteria, have been defined and tracked during project implementation.

Regulations concerning thickness measurements and flying have been followed.

Architecture and technologies for the ultrasound testing (UT) probe and UT system, hybrid mobile robot (HMR) and hybrid robot with arm (HRA) prototypes have been specified and designed for the aerial inspection task. This includes principles, avionics and sensors for HMR and HRA.

Two prototypes have been integrated and validated, the HMR, including a flyer and a cabled satellite crawler with its UT sensor, and the HRA, including a flyer with modular base, various landing gears and various inspection arm and tools with UT sensor on end effector, in addition to a mobile ground support platform with navigation support and battery management, and human-robot interfaces for robot control.
Implementation

HYFLIERS addresses the above objectives (see overall objectives above) by studying, designing, developing and testing a robotic system including prototypes for efficient and safe inspection in industrial sites. The robots are equipped with interfaces for teleoperation, but they also possess automatic collision detection and avoidance. This ensures accurate positioning, guidance, landing and rolling on constrained surfaces, such as pipes. The control system also integrating environment perception and aerodynamic control also includes a mission planning system to optimise the use of the robot in the inspection and therefore bringing energy savings.

Expected impact

HYFLIERS solutions are expected to decrease the cost and risks of current human inspection in production plants. The technology results have been validated in the inspection of pipes, which is a very relevant short-term application, but the results of the project could be also applied to other industrial scenarios, such as power generation plants.

Impact achieved

The socio-economic impact so far is achieved through dissemination of the results through scientific journal articles, and presentations at scientific conferences and professional conferences and exhibitions, including participation at the Maker Faire in Rome, Italy, an event with more than 100 000 visitors. Outcomes have been also disseminated to the general public through presence at television programmes and on social media. Exploitation is ongoing through internal activities and commercial exploitation, starting from a first viable product identified by the consortium, including its end users, and continuing through the identified exploitation path at consortium organisations. Innovation produced by the project is indicated by a number of patents and patent applications. The project generated a spin off, Neabotics.
hybrid robot, letter Y styled as drone rotors, letter S as inspection arm, text over wheeled vehicle