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AUTOnomous FLYing Robots in GNSS denied environments for 3D Underground infrastructure MAPping and inspection.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AutoFlyMap (AUTOnomous FLYing Robots in GNSS denied environments for 3D Underground infrastructure MAPping and inspection.)

Période du rapport: 2019-01-01 au 2019-06-30

Comprehensive inspections of channels, conduits and other closed environments (e.g. in mining, hydropower, construction sectors) are carried out by special skilled persons (normally climbers) trained to work in vertical surfaces (angles vary from 30º to 90º, which means totally vertical). This method involves both risks for humans and a wide variety of operational issues. Due to safety factors, besides the inspection team, extra people are needed to be ready during inspections to recue people working in the scenario in case of trouble. Hovering Solution’s flying platform can fly autonomously in GNSS-denied environments and allows to scan indoor scenarios in a fraction of time and to produce richly detailed 3D models, including survey grade geo-referenced point clouds and high definition texture layers. This way, Autoflymap can replace the comprehensive visual inspection by using the autonomous drone for carrying out the mapping of the internal part of the tunnels.
The activities carried out during the feasibility study included: 1) Technical analysis: the Autoflymap service was analyzed in 3 application sectors, through discussion with potential users, identifying for each case the needs, the typical service required by the client, the frequency of the service, the price acceptable by the client and the advantages compared to benchmark. The 3 sectors are: Hydroelectric plants for the inspection of penstock i.e. the pipes that carry water down from the hydroelectric reservoir to the turbines inside the actual power station; Mining for the inspection of ore passes, i.e. the vertical or near-vertical openings which are created during underground mining operations to transfer materials between different ground levels; Construction for the inspection of tunnels both during the construction and operation phases, in order to detect anomalies, such as cracks, deformations, movements or water leakage, and to ascertain the stability of the tunnel structures so that necessary maintenance can be carried out. 2) Market analysis and business plan: the available market in the 3 sectors analyzed was carried out; in addition, for each sector the most relevant clients to be addressed for market access were identified. The pay-as-you-go service Business Model for autonomous inspection and 3D mapping through aerial-robots-based was confirmed. The economic/financial plan of the initiative was defined, considering the average use case per client and estimating the market penetration in the first 5 years after launch of the service.
The solutions available for 3D modelling and mapping of surfaces in the inspection of underground infrastructures are Fixed Laser Scanner stations or vehicles equipped with image and laser sensors. However, they cannot be used in situations inaccessible to vehicles (e.g. in construction sites, vertical shafts, hydraulic big pipes) and they are limited by the imposed path for the point of reference. Hovering Solutions allows the use of flying robot (6 Degree of Freedom vehicle) which allows the inspection and mapping of horizontal and vertical scenarios, also in unreachable area: vertical shafts, ventilation ducts and small or confined spaces. It allows real 360º objects scanning, due to ability to reach any part of the tunnel from any angle, avoiding shadows; it can work in total darkness, with no need of lighting installation. The use of autonomous flying robots will reduce all issues involved to access and associated risks for humans. In addition, the inspection time will be reduced from few days to few hours. This will allow to reduce maintenance time and costs, making shorter the stop period for maintenance and consequently reducing their losses due to production break.
HS flying robot in operation