Autonomous inspection can be carried out by robotic vehicles in all domains, including: UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles), ASVs (autonomous surface vessels) and AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles). The technology is used to inspect and monitor a wide range of assets and industrial sites to check for damage or to measure performance.
Autonomous inspection provides a number of advantages over traditional methods. The use of inspection robots and robotic vehicles can be far less costly than using manned aircraft, helicopters, and onsite personnel, meaning that inspections can be conducted more frequently. These inspections can typically be completed quicker than manual processes, meaning that downtime of the asset will be minimized.
The use of autonomous inspection for assets such as wind farms, power lines and chemical plants can also enhance safety, as it removes the need for putting personnel at risk. Jobs may be able to be carried out under conditions that would prevent manual inspection, such as heavy wind, rain and other environmental factors. Automation also removes operator fatigue and human error from the equation, and can deliver more consistent results.
Autonomous inspection and monitoring vehicles may use artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision to aid in the identification of defects and issues such as cracks, overgrown vegetation, or excess heat. This visual analysis may be performed onboard, or data may be streamed to the cloud or retrieved post-mission to be run through post-processing software. Autonomous inspection software may provide a range of convenient features such as automatic report generation and predictive maintenance suggestions.
Autonomous inspection solutions may be packaged as drone-in-a-box (DiaB) systems, which can be installed on site and allow the drone to repeatedly fly inspection missions, return to base, recharge and offload data all without the need for human intervention.
Applications for drone- and robot-based inspection and monitoring include wind farms, solar power plants, pipelines, roads and railways, aircraft structures and vessel hulls, precision agriculture, and much more.