Call for Proposals: Robotics I&M applications for Road, rail and civil infrastructure connected with cities
CHALLENGE 1: INCREASE EFFICIENCY IN THE I&M ACTIVITIES OF CIVIL INFRASTRUCTURE
One aspect that makes the execution of I&M activities difficult are imposed constraints which include the following cases:
- on a motorway, the infrastructure is not 100% available to citizens – it is essential to reduce the time inspectors need to perform the respective I&M operations,
- in rail infrastructure, I&M activities need to be undertaken on the outside (exterior) or during the night, leaving the operators exposed to the weather conditions,
- I&M activities must be stealthy, especially in urban areas – without negative environmental impact, noises, odours, dust, etc.,
- manual I&M activities, after an 8-hour shift, lead to low quality results.
This challenge should address the constraints above without excluding similar ones, and develop technologies capable to:
- minimize the time that facilities are not available due to I&M activities,
- increase cost-efficiency in the accomplishment of I&M activities,
- use multi-sensing inspection robots in order to detect defects in different infrastructures (rails, tunnels, etc.),
- use robotic solutions for approaching unreachable places and performing I&M operations,
- use a combination of methods and tools that can support the aforementioned resources to resist difficult environmental conditions (night conditions, windy areas, etc.).
CHALLENGE 2: REDUCE RISK FOR WORKERS DURING I&M ACTIVITIES ON CIVIL INFRASTRUCTURES
This challenge is partially related to the previous one in terms of safety from the operators’ perspective, since the more dangers operators face, the less efficient they become. Typical examples of such cases are as follows:
- during I&M operations, operators need to access and work in high-risk areas such as motorways where vehicles pass by at high speed,
- in some cases, coring or sampling unknown material(s) onsite implies a specific method of sampling to preserve the health and safety (H&S) for the operators,
- difficulty in reaching areas in order to do their job, especially when there is a need to avoid digging close to other networks (e.g. water, electric, etc.).
This challenge is expected to be addressed by introducing innovative robotic solutions that will either facilitate operators reaching unreachable places (e.g. big heights) or robotic solutions that will reach those areas and perform the I&M operations while operators control them remotely and in safety, such as aerial robots; more specifically solutions that:
- increase supporting tools that will assist operators during the execution of I&M activities,
- introduce safety resources that will supervise operators’ activity,
- improve safety conditions for operators while performing I&M activities,
- use safety approved devices and methods that will increase operators’ safety during the execution of I&M activities,
- use supporting tools and methods for operators during I&M operations.
CHALLENGE 3: ENSURE THAT CIVIL INFRASTRUCTURE IS OPERATIONAL AND SAFE
An important aspect is the quick detection of defects in the infrastructure. Usually, Vision-Systems are used for such activities, but several innovative technologies are expected to address inspection activities. Additionally, smart algorithms that can process the raw data from the perception technologies are also included in this challenge. Apart from that, decision making algorithms are also expected to be created in order to facilitate the automation of the whole I&M activity during the execution of the different activities.
- Perception technologies to detect defects.
- Sensor data processing for automating I&M processes.
CHALLENGE 4: WORKER – MACHINE ON JOBSITE COOPERATION
As technology evolves, people are using more and more heavy machinery and automation systems to perform I&M activities on job sites. For this reason, a high level of autonomy should be reached by each resource in order to cooperate efficiently. This challenge aims to be addressed by the following technologies:
- efficient autonomous navigation and motion planning on jobsites with obstacle avoidance capabilities,
- automation tools, such as product pouring machines that follow a predefined path or jobsite cleaning machines that automate repetitive tasks,
- risk planning, scheduling, and job organization algorithms that can help operators and their supervisors to track any open issues in time.
CHALLENGE 5: OPEN (FACILITATING TECHNOLOGIES DEVELOPMENT)
The last challenge refers to any generic supporting tool, either robotic or automation system, that is not included in the above categories and aims at supporting the communication for operators, either among themselves or with their supervisor, as well as supporting them in their I&M tasks by providing tools and instructions. Examples in this case are the communication problems that are faced on the jobsite of a long tunnel, before establishing power and any electrical infrastructure.
Illustration Photo: The Rovver 900 is responsible for inspecting all statewide maintained culverts. (credits: Washington State Dept of Transportation / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))