Corrosion in oil pipes could be avoided with drones

Corrosion in oil pipes could be avoided with drones

May 15, 2019
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In a German refinery the AEROX aerial manipulator system developed by CATEC is being applied for the contact inspection of pipes and tanks.

A campaign of industrial experiments and demonstrations is being conducted in the H2020 European Research and Innovation project AEROARMS funded by the European Commission.

In late May, June and July the experiments and demonstrations will be carried out in a refinery in northern Germany. These experiments will continue the previous successful testing in the same German refinery and in a cement factory in Spain performed by the University of Seville and the Centre for Advanced Aerospace Technologies (CATEC).

Measuring pipes thickness with drones to avoid corrosion

In a German refinery the AEROX aerial manipulator system developed by CATEC is being applied for the contact inspection of pipes and tanks.

Particularly, the rolling end-effector of the AEROX manipulator, with an ultrasonic sensor, was used to obtain the wall thickness measurements of both pipes and tanks, which is very important to know the corrosion.

In the cement factory LafargeHolcim in Jerez (Spain), wall thickness measurements with the CATEC AEROX aerial manipulator equipped with an eddy current sensor from the Swiss company SENSIMA, also partner of AEROARMS, were also performed. Moreover, the University of Seville demonstrated an aerial robot with two arms, mapping by using 3D Lidar and new techniques for position estimation without GPS. These methods were integrated in a Simultaneous Localization Mapping (SLAM) method. The SLAM was integrated with new trajectory planning, also developed by the University of Seville, in which the dynamic behaviour of the aerial manipulator is considered to compute optimal plans and to re-plan in real time when needed.

From project to market product

The results of AEROARMS will generate several industrial products immediately after the project, including aerial manipulators for contact inspection and installation of sensors, particularly in sites that are very difficult to be inspected avoiding dangerous human work at height. Also industrial accurate mapping and non-contact inspection systems will be available. These industrial products will decrease drastically the inspection and maintenance required time and costs. Only in the oil and gas sector, the world market of inspection and maintenance is more than 2000 million euros. In Europe, there are more than 100 refineries and 400 companies providing inspection and maintenance services with a market of more than 600 million euros.

The AEROARMS project is also having a very important scientific and technological impact. Thus, the results of the project have received national and international recognitions and awards, such as the European Commission Overall Innovation Radar 2017 Prize in the Information and Communication Technologies, obtained by AEROX, being selected the winner between 25 finalists.

The AEROARMS partners have published the results of the project in more than 110 scientific publications including the best robotic journals and presentations in the best robotics conferences.

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