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PILOTs for robotic INspection and maintenance Grounded on advanced intelligent platforms and prototype applications

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PILOTING (PILOTs for robotic INspection and maintenance Grounded on advanced intelligent platforms and prototype applications)

Reporting period: 2021-07-01 to 2022-12-31

Current European refineries and civil infrastructures, like tunnels and bridges, are ageing, and therefore gradually become deteriorated, especially taking into consideration the current and future economic situation in Europe where large investments in renewing infrastructures are not foreseen. Then, it is paramount important to increase the efficiency and quality of inspection and maintenance activities in order to keep the necessary safety levels in these ageing infrastructures. To overcome this important challenge, PILOTING proposes the adaptation, integration, and demonstration of robotic solutions, in an integrated platform, which will be tested and evaluated in three large-scale pilots: refineries (Oil&Gas sector), bridges/viaducts and tunnels (Civil/Transport Infrastructure sector) with the involvement of all the actors that conform the full value chain. The developed platform will: demonstrate the application of robotics at scale in the domain of Inspection and Maintenance (I&M), reduce end-user commercial risks on the deployment of robotics in the sector, demonstrate capabilities and improve understanding of robotics uptake value, develop and support the related ecosystem around the piloting I&M operations, as well as, contribute to industrial standards in robotics for I&M. To achieve the above, PILOTING will develop an advanced robotic-based platform that will be deployed in the three industrial scenarios and demonstrate the real value towards the inspection and maintenance community as well as its high level socio-economic impact when applied at scale. PILOTING will establish large-scale pilots in real industrial environments to directly reply to main I&M challenges through the demonstration of: increasing rate of inspection and maintenance tasks, improving coverage and performance, decreasing costs and time of operations, improving inspection quality and increasing safety of operators.
Once the project is defined as a whole, from the coordination to the technical, socio-economical, and ethical issues, the technological advances started.

Hitherto, the following critical advances in the technical milestones have been performed within PILOTING:

- The specification and design of PILOTING I&M platform was performed, which includes a comprehensive set of Design processes, Validation metrics and the definition/specification of all the systems within the PILOTING project. Also, the development of validation scenarios has been tackled in this first stage of the project.

- The adaptation of robotic vehicles and data gathering. During the first period of the project, the first version of the PILOTING robots has been developed: aerial (AEROX, AERO-CAM, VIAD-DRONE, TTDRONE), ground (CART, RISING) and crawlers/hybrid (BIKE/HYBRID) robots. Also, the first data sets have been obtained and the configuration of the robotic vehicles and inspection sensor and the procedures about how to properly access the data sets have been defined.

- Developments in the autonomous robotic functionalities. Separated in four different technical fields regarding the functionalities needed to complete the tasks of the robotic systems. (i) Advances in the GNSS-free localization and navigation for aerial systems: a first version of the planning and localization algorithms has been developed.(ii) The dexterous manipulation from the RISING platform, the sole ground vehicle equipped with a manipulator and thus capable of complex manipulation tasks has been defined, (iii) a modular control architecture has been adopted in PILOTING to develop the flight controllers of the platforms, that can be adapted to the specific flight conditions of each one and (iv) the navigation system for ground robots and crawlers has been tackled in parallel operation with (i).

- Finally, a great amount of efforts have been placed to develop the Robot control station and I&M data management system, giving the hierarchy and software procedures to create the full Robot Control Station as the project advances.
PILOTING has been mainly focused on the application and adaptation of previously developed advanced robotics technologies to inspection and maintenance tasks, targeting to reach a higher technological readiness level (TRL 7), and integrating the different robotics vehicles in a scalable and open platform that will generate a complete solution that will cover all the required aspects needed by end-users in inspection tasks.

On the other hand, PILOTING project will contribute in the progress beyond the state of the art of the following robotics technologies, promoting the technology development of a new era of inspection robotic systems based on highly automatic operations and fully digital inspection procedures:

- Autonomous navigation in GNSS-degraded environments: GNSS-free localization supported by advanced perception systems from multiple sensors to increase accuracy and robustness. Autonomous navigation systems in cluttered and complex environments as support to facilitate inspection and maintenance operations.

- Aerial contact robots: Surface contact inspection at any orientation, capability of C-scan measurements, robust flight capabilities while performing contact operations, easily interchangeable end-effector increasing inspection capabilities.

- Autonomous dexterous manipulation from ground robots: Multi-modal object detection, advanced 3D re-construction of the infrastructure elements (valves, switches etc.), more accurate manipulation of these elements, increased situational awareness.

- Novel hybrid robotic vehicles: Validation of novel hybrid and combined robotic vehicles for inspection tasks in operational environments.

- Artificial Intelligence (AI) applied to inspection: Extending and enhancing technologies on deep novelty detection algorithms, few-shot classification mechanisms, learning to learn (meta-learning) validation in operational conditions.

- Data management system for fully digital inspection and maintenance procedures: Cloud-based multi-layer and hybrid implementation of the data management system, capability to handle highly heterogeneous data, and multi-standard compliance.
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