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Friday, 18 July 2014 10:51cat

German Researchers Test Flying Inspection Robot

Written by  TheStructuralEngineer.info
The Octocopter really reduces the time needed to inspect a building for cracks or damage The Octocopter really reduces the time needed to inspect a building for cracks or damage Uwe Bellhauser

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Non-Destructive Testing IZFP in Saarbrucken, Germany have been working on building robots that can inspect buildings for damage. The current prototype, which made its first inspection in 2011, significantly reduces the amount of time needed to inspect, compared to having a human carry out the inspection, and also does not interfere with the usage of the building. Germany has put a strong focus over the past few years on inspecting many of the country’s concrete buildings. Most of these structures were built in the years following World War II and have begun to deteriorate over the last 60 years due to heavy loading and inclement weather. The current standard of using test engineers to inspect buildings with their naked eye is both time consuming and not completely accurate. It can also require special equipment such as cranes and helicopters to inspect parts of structures that are difficult to reach.

The Fraunhofer Institute believes their robot, the Octocopter, is a major improvement on the current method of building inspection. Not only does it not require special equipment to reach different areas of a building, it also allows test engineers to remain on the ground and avoid any risk of injury during an inspection. The Octocopter can also take more accurate readings and record them more efficiently than a test engineer. The robot takes many high-quality photos of a building’s facade that can be used later to create 2D and 3D data models. It is also equipped with sensors that monitor wind gusts so that the robot maintains a stable altitude and also does not knock into the building it is inspecting. According to the Fraunhofer Institute, “For a 20 by 80 meter wide façade, a test engineer needs about two to three days. Our Octocopter needs three to four hours for this.”

Researchers would like to improve the Octocopter by adding a thermal imaging camera to the robot. This would allow engineers to see the quality of the building’s insulation. The Fraunhofer Institute is currently working on ways to automate the Octocopter’s flight pattern. They believe they could use sensors to have the robot inspect a building without the need to be controlled at all times by someone nearby. The Fraunhofer Institue sees the Octocopter becoming a device that does not replace test engineers, but accelerates the test procedure and enables permanent monitoring and documentation from the beginning.

Sources: SourceableScience Daily

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