Dry coupled ultrasonic non-destructive evaluation using an over-actuated unmanned aerial vehicle

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Abstract

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are seeing increasing adoption to automated remote and in situ inspection of industrial assets, removing the need for hazardous manned access. Aerial manipulator architectures supporting pose-decoupled exertion of force and torque would further enable UAV deployment of contact-based transducers for sub-surface structural health assessment. Herein, for the first time, we introduce an over-actuated multirotor deploying a dry-coupled ultrasonic wheel probe as a novel means of wall thickness mapping. Using bi-axial tilting propellers in a unique tricopter layout, this system performs direct thrust vectoring for efficient omnidirectional flight and application of interaction forces. In laboratory testing we demonstrate stable and repeatable probe deployment in a variety of representative asset inspection operations. We obtain a mean absolute error in measured thickness of under 0.10 mm when measuring an aluminum sample with varying wall thickness. This is maintained over repeated exit and re-entry of surface contact, and when the sample is mounted vertically or on the underside of a 45° overhang. Furthermore, when rolling the probe dynamically across the sample surface in an area scanning modality, a mean absolute error in wall thickness below 0.28 mm is recorded. Multi-modal operational confidence bounds of the system are thereby quantitatively defined.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
Early online date26 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • inspection
  • ultrasound inspection
  • unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based remote sensing
  • dry-coupled ultrasound inspection
  • remote inspection
  • non-destructive evaluation (NDE)
  • over-actuation

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