Horizon 2020 Grant Agreement No. 779411
HYFLIERS is a research and innovation action of EU Horizon 2020 programme for advanced robot capabilities research and take-up, worth 3,9 million euro funding, with almost 800 000 euro being the Oulu share. HYFLIERS will develop the world's first industrial integrated robot with hybrid air and ground mobility with a long-reach hyper-redundant manipulator capable of reaching sites where no other robot can access, reducing the exposition of human inspectors to potentially dangerous working conditions. Targeting ultrasonic thickness measurements for refineries, the results could be applied to many other robotic inspection technologies. The consortium is composed of eight partners from Finland, Spain, Italy, France and Switzerland, including high reputation universities, research institutes, industrial partners with research and innovation development capabilities, and two world leaders oil and gas industrial companies.
Focusing on non-destructive contact measurements but with potential application to a wider set of industrial scenarios, the scope of HYFLIERS project is to study and develop solutions to perform inspection measurements with reduced exposure to risks and costs. To this end, the first accurate controlled hybrid aerial-ground robot with a hyper-redundant lightweight robotic articulated arm equipped with an inspection sensor will be developed together with supporting services for efficient and safe navigation in complex and safety-critical environments.
In oil and gas production plants, all or part of the components are often subject to degradation caused by exposure to the environment or products within the production process. Excessive pipe corrosion may lead to accidents, including catastrophic failures with explosions and release of toxic products, thus having impact on safety, environment and availability of the plant. Inspection processes for thickness measurements ensure that plants are in safe operating condition or provides alerts to execute necessary corrective actions. These measurements are traditionally executed by personnel that require access to specific locations. Up to 90% of these activities are carried out by working at elevated locations with the use of ladders, scaffold, rope access or cranes, and sometimes in presence of high temperatures or toxic materials. Obviously, this causes considerable costs for ensuring safety of inspection personnel but in some cases, casualties may occur. Moreover, anxiety and exposure to dangerous locations affects concentration and promotes human errors. There are safety, quality and cost drivers for novel inspection methods.
HYFLIERS will address those by studying, designing, developing and testing a robotic system including two prototypes for the first worldwide hybrid aerial/ground robot with a hyper-redundant lightweight robotic articulated arm equipped with an inspection sensing sub-system and a ground support unit for efficient and safe inspection in industrial sites. The robot will be equipped with interfaces for teleoperation, but it will also possess automatic collision detection and avoidance. This will ensure accurate positioning, guidance, landing and rolling on constrained surfaces (such as pipes). The control system also integrating environment perception and aerodynamic control will moreover include a mission planning system to optimise the use of the robot in the inspection and therefore bringing energy savings. HYFLIERS will decrease the cost and risks of current human inspection in production plants. The technology results will be validated in the inspection of pipes, which is a very relevant short-term application, but the results of the project could be also applied to other industrial scenarios, such as power generation plants.
Main picture: Rendering of a drone standing on a pipe and performing measurements with its robotic hyperredundant inspection manipulator. (Image: Luca Buonocore.)