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

Watson, Robert and Kamel, Mina and Zhang, Dayi and Dobie, Gordon and MacLeod, Charles and Pierce, S. Gareth and Nieto, Juan (2021) Dry coupled ultrasonic non-destructive evaluation using an over-actuated unmanned aerial vehicle. IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering. ISSN 1545-5955

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    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.

    ORCID iDs

    Watson, Robert ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4918-0044, Kamel, Mina, Zhang, Dayi ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4611-4161, Dobie, Gordon ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3972-5917, MacLeod, Charles ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4364-9769, Pierce, S. Gareth ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0312-8766 and Nieto, Juan;