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Innovative Aerial Service Robots for Remote Inspections by Contact

Project Number: ICT-248669
Project Manager: Dr. Rafaella Carloni
Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science
Tel.: +31-53-4892817
Email: r.carloni@utwente.nl

Project website: AIRobots


The project will be devoted to the development of aerial service robots whose basic technologies can be adapted with minimal efforts to support human beings in a wide array of applications which require the ability to interact with environments which are otherwise un-accessible by ground robots. To prove the viability of the concept, the specific end-user AIR applications will be addressed and prototypes of aerial service robots able to meet the end-user expectations will be developed.

More specifically the final objective of the project is to develop two aerial prototypes and to prove their effectiveness in mock-up environments specifically designed in order to capture the key features of the end-user selected scenarios. The development of the aerial platforms will require the fulfillment of a number of objectives which have been fixed in order to develop a "general purpose" aerial robot potentially adaptable to a number of applicative scenarios. Specifically, the most important objectives to be reached in the project are the following.

  1. Aerial service robotics best practice and performance measures. The first goal is to define a series of performance measures both for general aerial service robotic applications and for the robotic inspections scenarios of interest for the end-user. In this respect the system has to be designed to be robust, flexible, adaptable, portable, safe, intelligent, effective and economic in achieving the desired operations.
  2. System design and control strategies for aerial robots physically interacting with the human world. The design of the entire system addressing the interaction with the environment represents one of the main contributions of this project to the field of aerial robotics and control systems design. The service robotics explicitly requires the ability to interact with the environment in terms of contact between the aircraft and objects, e.g. docking and un-docking operations required to put sensors in contact with the object to be inspected, takeoff and landing, etc. This feature requires the design of innovative robust control strategies.
  3. New contribution to human-robot interaction and communication. One of the objectives is to develop an advanced human-robot interface for the purpose of endowing the system with advanced action capabilities. This will be achieved by employing the state of the art in term of virtual reality and sensing technology (such as augmented reality and haptic devices) in order to allow the operator to guide the robot in the actions to be achieved by hiding the complexity of the vehicle dynamics. Ideally the aerial service robot represents a "flying hand" that allows the human to act as if she were directly on the site, allowing a level of interaction between the human and the environment that has never been reached before in the field of aerial robotics.
  4. Aerial navigation in loosely structured and densely cluttered environments. One of the main effort of the project consists into designing a framework to allow the robot to safely operate in loosely structured and possibly densely cluttered environments. In fact during the inspection of the desired infrastructure the robot is required to fly in an environment which is uncertain and only partially structured because, usually, no reliable layouts and drawings of the surroundings are available. To support these features, advanced cognitive capabilities are required, and in particular the role played by vision is of paramount importance.

Project duration: 1-2-2010 - 31-1-2013
Project budget: 3.6 M-€
Number of person/months: 342 person months
Project Coordinator: Università degli Studi di Bologna (UNIBO)
Participants: Università degli Studi di Bologna (UNIBO), Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETHZ), Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (UNINA), Universiteit Twente (UT) , Alstom Inspection Robotics (AIR), Università degli Studi di Salerno (UNISA) 
Project budget CTIT: 610 k-€ funding
Number of person/years CTIT: no information
Involved groups: Robotics and Mechatronics (RAM)