Autonomous ultrasonic inspection using unmanned aerial vehicle

Zhang, Dayi and Watson, Robert and Dobie, Gordon and MacLeod, Charles Norman and Pierce, Gareth; (2018) Autonomous ultrasonic inspection using unmanned aerial vehicle. In: 2018 IEEE International Ultrasonics Symposium (IUS). IEEE, JPN. ISBN 9781538634257 (

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In terms of safety and convenience, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) offers significant benefits when conducting remote NDT evaluations by mitigating hazards and inefficiencies associated with manned access. Traditionally, UAV remote inspections rely on high-resolution cameras, providing a visual overview of surface condition. This photogrammetric inspection, however, cannot distinguish minute discontinuities or deformations beneath a surface coating. Ultrasonic inspection is a Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) method conventionally used in corrosion mapping. Surface contacting ultrasonic transducers offer the potential for internal inspection of an industrial asset, providing enhanced structural integrity information. However, manually piloting a UAV with sufficient surface proximity to perform a detailed, contact-based examination requires a highly developed skillset and intense concentration. Limitations of payload mass and electronic interference also represent significant challenges to be overcome. Addressing such issues, this paper demonstrates the implementation of an autonomous UAV system with an integrated ultrasonic contact measurement payload. The prototype is autonomously guided and undertakes the contact thickness measurement process without manual intervention.