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Autonomous Drone Solution for Tunnel and Pipeline Inspection

Technology Overview

Inspecting tunnel and pipeline infrastructure can be a daunting and expensive task due to remote inaccessibility that is unsafe for humans. The technology provider has a drone solution that can inspect both underground and overground spaces within a fraction of time and cost of a conventional solution. Deployment is effortless and operation is entirely autonomous. Result analysis is made possible through curated Artificial Intelligence and an asset management software.

As assets get older, the need for inspection becomes more vital for the continued sustenance of cortical water and transport infrastructure. The technology is ideal for these critical infrastructure owners like authorities, asset managers, contractors and end-user solution providers like consultants.

Technology Features & Specifications

Deployment

  • Controlled mechanical lowering of asset
  • Remote launch and retrieval
  • Variable launch and retrieval points

Imaging

  • On-board camera and lighting module
  • Full HD 360˚ coverage of tunnel walls
  • Real time cm-level localisation
  • 3D Digital Surface Model generation

Aircraft

  • Autonomous navigation by dual LIDAR and stereo vision
  • Proprietary navigation algorithms (SLAM-based) and AI
  • Active flight trajectory planning
  • Real time obstacle avoidance
  • Globular and linear geometry compatibility
  • Stowable and compact carbon fiber airframe
  • Flight endurance of 20 minutes for 2KM

Image Analytics

  • Autonomous defect detection for all types of anomalies
  • Proprietary detection framework
  • Enhanced accuracy level that is superior to manual detection

Asset Management Software

  • Proprietary results visualisation interface
  • Mapping of photos onto site plan or constructed model
  • Intuitive interaction with results
  • Annotation and labeling features

Potential Applications

This solution is best suited for underground water and rail tunnels that are a part of a country’s infrastructure. Inspections can also be applied at underground tubular cavities housing commodity stores, mines and power cables.

As the drone is fully autonomous, no operating crew is required. The deployment module and ground station software together with the drone are sufficient for operational inspections in any asset. For example, once various profiles of a rail tunnel are computed for, the drone can be simply transported to the different rail lines and be operated hands-free. 

Market Trends and Opportunities

Although Industry 4.0 has led the way forward in facilitating the use of technology in inspections, the main market trend here is human safety. Areas like tunnels are not conducive for a human to safely inspect in a competent manner. Industries are emphasizing more on making maintenance tasks safer and more efficient at the same time. Autonomous drones like the ones the technology provider have are able to fulfill and drive this trend forward.

Customer Benefits

Current solutions for tunnel inspection have fallen short in terms of operational reliability. Rovers, hovercrafts and tethered cameras all involve physical contact with the asset. Inspections are never disruption free. Where they are seamless, the results are not sufficient for meaningful assessment as they are not taken from a consistent and stable frame of reference. Inspection speed is also slow due to the friction involved in contact based operations.

The technology provider provides a solution which has zero dependency on the asset. Inspections are done on a zero contact principle and a consistent trajectory means that results are also consistent. Faster speed is also realisable and less resources are spent for asset maintenance. No set up is required as it is designed to be plug-and-play. Even so, it is still able to outperform other technologies in terms of result quality.

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