Journal article Open Access
Suarez, Alejandro; Caballero, Alvaro; Garofano-Soldado, Ambar; Sanchez-Cuevas, Pedro J.; Heredia, Guillermo; Ollero, Anibal
This paper considers the inspection by contact of long arrays of pipe structures in hard-to-reach places, typical of chemical plants or oil and gas industries, presenting the design of a hybrid rolling-aerial platform capable of landing and moving along the pipes without wasting energy in the propellers during the inspection. The presented robot overcomes the limitation in terms of operation time and positioning accuracy in the application of flying robots to industrial inspection and maintenance tasks. The robot consists of a hexa-rotor platform integrating a rolling base with velocity and direction control, and a 5-DOF (degree of freedom) robotic arm supported by a 1-DOF linear guide system that facilitates the deployment of the arm in the array of pipes to inspect their contour once the platform has landed. Given a set of points to be inspected in different arrays of pipes, the path of the multirotor and the rolling platform is planned with a hybrid RRT* (Rapidly-exploring Random Tree) based algorithm that minimizes the energy consumption. The performance of the system is evaluated in an illustrative outdoor scenario with two arrays of pipes, using a laser tracking system to measure the position of the robot from the ground control station.