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A noncontact ultrasonic platform for structural inspection

Dobie, Gordon and Summan, Rahul and Pierce, S. Gareth and Galbraith, Walter and Hayward, Gordon (2011) A noncontact ultrasonic platform for structural inspection. IEEE Sensors Journal, 11 (10). pp. 2458-2468. ISSN 1530-437X

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Miniature robotic vehicles are receiving increasing attention for use in nondestructive testing (NDE) due to their attractiveness in terms of cost, safety, and their accessibility to areas where manual inspection is not practical. Conventional ultrasonic inspection requires the provision of a suitable coupling liquid between the probe and the structure under test. This necessitates either an on board reservoir or umbilical providing a constant flow of coupling fluid, neither of which are practical for a fleet of miniature robotic inspection vehicles. Air-coupled ultrasound offers the possibility of couplant-free ultrasonic inspection. This paper describes the sensing methodology, hardware platform and algorithms used to integrate an air-coupled ultrasonic inspection payload into a miniature robotic vehicle platform. The work takes account of the robot's inherent positional uncertainty when constructing an image of the test specimen from aggregated sensor measurements. This paper concludes with the results of an automatic inspection of a aluminium sample.