UAS Demonstration and Development for Inaccessible Features Inspections

Project ID: 20096
Principal Investigator: Carter Gulsvig
Research Topic: Condition Assessment
Funded Fiscal Years: 2020, 2021 and 2022
Keywords: None

Research Question

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is a rapidly growing industry that has new applications each year. UAS offer a new approach to performing routine inspections on large and or difficult to access structures. The ability to equip unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with a variety of sensors, scanners, and other instrumentation, allows for the collection of new forms of data. Some of the new data can be used for creating 3D models of structures which will allow USBR to monitor structures for both new and existing structural defects.

The Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) has several structures that are classified as inaccessible features. These structures cannot be easily or safely accessed by foot and require other methods such as rope access. Traditionally, these structures are accessed by Rope Access Technicians to inspect them. Confined spaces is also another form of a hazardous environment encountered by USBR employees. The use of UAS can help inspectors determine which areas require in-depth inspection. This can reduce the amount of time or even eliminate the inspector ever having to expose themselves to the hazardous environment. UAS pose a new opportunity to conduct inspections on inaccessible features or structures containing a hazardous environment, including, but not limited to, penstock, pipelines, surge tanks, and gates.

This work will build off previous work done in collaboration with the USACE and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). USACE has invested considerable resources with the UPenn GRASP robotics laboratory to develop an autonomously operated UAS that can navigate through a tunnel environment to collect visual inspection information throughout the cross-section of the tunnel. They have also been working on a process to automatically detect features and deterioration using the optical data collected. USBR powerplants offer a suitable environment for UPenn to perform demonstration of their current capabilities with UAS and gather data t

Need and Benefit

Unmanned aerial systems is a growing industry that has new applications each year. UAS's allow for larger quantities, high quality, and new forms of data and data collection. They also increase safety by reducing and or removing USBR employees from hazardous environments.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20