Near Earth Autonomy has been awarded a contract by NASA to develop unmanned aerial system (UAS)-based close-proximity and contact sensing for industrial infrastructure inspection.
Many aspects of infrastructure, including transportation, energy, heavy industry, mining, and aerospace, require inspection, maintenance and repair. A key part of making these operations effective is to use non-destructive testing, which traditionally requires scaffolding, boom lifts, or rope lines – all methods which put operators at risk and result in downtime for critical assets. Even typical drone inspection systems cannot be used for non-destructive testing, as it requires contact to measure coating and material thickness or to detect deposits on the inside of tanks and ducts. Drones can become unstable when in contact with a surface.
Near Earth Autonomy, in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University’s AIR Lab, has received NASA funding to demonstrate a proof of concept drone system that will advance industrial aerial inspection with close-proximity imaging and contact sensing. The small UAS will provide contact measurements and macro-imagery that inspectors can use for evaluation and recommendation of further actions. These aerial inspection technologies will enable safer and quicker inspection of large, complex structures, producing fused data sets for analysis.
Dr. Sanjiv Singh, CEO of Near Earth, commented: “Our value proposition is to improve safety, accuracy, and efficiency in industrial and aerospace infrastructure inspection with sUAS-based close-proximity imaging and contact sensing. Our partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, and deep relationships with industrial leaders make us uniquely positioned to bring world-class contact sensing drone systems to the inspection market. We expect this newly created market to surpass $4 billion by 2022. We are excited to collaborate with these innovators on pilot projects to save lives and radically increase up-time as we refine the technology for broad commercialization.”