One of the most important aspects in the world of close structural inspection, is non-destructive testing or NDT. NDT is the process of inspecting, testing, or evaluating the materials that make up key industrial infrastructure assets.
NDT looks for discontinuities, or differences in characteristics of materials without destroying the serviceability of the part or system being tested. In other words, when the inspection or test is completed, the part — be it a section of pipe, a tank, a heat exchanger, a pylon or the inside of a tunnel — can still be used and put back into service.
The problem, of course, is access.
A lot of times, a specific part, component or surface area is surrounded by other plant, equipment or structural elements, or buried deep inside confined areas, or high up out of reach of normal access, often without a built-in platform or gantry.
The standard solutions are either rope access, use of a crane or cherry picker, or erection of scaffolding — all of which can be expensive, time-consuming, and hazardous to worker safety.
Introducing Voliro T: an advanced flying robot designed for safe and efficient NDT work at height. Voliro T’s unique 360º tilt technology allows the UAV to access and conduct testing on a wide variety of structural forms and elements from all angles, and in a highly controlled and stable manner in GPS-denied environments.
Voliro is essentially an aerial robotics platform, backed by a strong ecosystem of NDT sensors developed by Voliro, as well as a number of third-party capabilities.
The Voliro T is able to carry a variety of payloads depending on the use case. So far, it has been successfully used for Ultrasonic Testing (UT) for thickness measurement, Dry-Film Thickness (DFT) measurement and reinforced concrete inspection using Pulsed-Eddy Current (PEC) sensors.
The system is also suitable for contactless jobs such as painting and spraying.
The NDT and material application possibilities are endless, making it a truly versatile platform for work at height. Voliro is able to deliver high quality, cost-effective and time-efficient robotic NDT inspection and maintenance solutions.
Position Sensors, Thrust Vectoring
Voliro T’s unique tiltable rotors allow for thrust vectoring, giving the Voliro T the ability to navigate a 3D space whilst maintaining a fixed orientation. The tiltable rotor design also makes the robot resistant to wind gusts and turbulence close to a structure.
A range of advanced sensors are also used to stabilise the drone in GPS-denied environments, when close to delicate structures. This is combined with a real-time video stream from the onboard FPV camera to provide a good situational overview of the drone’s surroundings.
The on-board assistive systems allow Voliro T to:
- Sense and avoid obstacles around it
- Lock itself to a surface at any orientation
- Perform a controlled approach and maintain stable contact while inspecting the surface
The Voliro T can be powered with a battery for flights suitable for most inspection jobs, or it can be powered via a tether for extended missions, such as for painting and spraying.
LiDAR scanners or photogrammetry are used for accurate 3D mapping and modelling of inspected assets. Data collected using common inspection sensors can be stored on the 3D model for easy visualization. Thanks to the stored 3D map it is possible to log and revisit previously inspected points in the future, enabling corrosion monitoring and assessment of an asset’s degradation rate.
Voliro is also working to develop fully autonomous solutions to perform and execute automated missions. Relying only on high-level inputs from the human operator, such a flying robot could automatically execute the entire mission.
Who’s Behind Voliro?
Voliro is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. The company is a spin-off from research work at the Autonomous Systems Lab (ASL) of ETH Zurich, one of the world’s top 3 universities for engineering and technology. Like another Swiss company you may have heard of, Voliro’s vision is to revolutionise the way flying robots can be used to solve new challenges. Voliro was founded in 2019, and the team has grown steadily and now consists of more than 15 robotics and automation experts and drone enthusiasts.
Working with Dronesurvey Asia, Voliro is currently offering the Voliro T system on a per-project or for-hire basis, based on specific NDT needs or requirements, and because Voliro are continually developing and expanding the technology (both hardware and software) based on customer feedback and usage requests.
If you like to know more, please contact us for pricing and availability today.
The Many Flavours of NDT
NDT testing methods vary, depending on the type of components and material that need to be tested and checked. Some of the test methods currently available are;
- Acoustic Emission Testing (AE); mostly used for proof tests of pressure vessels and other steel structures under high stress
- Electromagnetic Testing (ET); various ET methods are used for flaw detection, material and coating thickness measurements, material identification and establishing the heat treatment condition of certain materials
- Laser Testing Methods (LM); three main categories that include
- holographic testing (for changes in the surface of material that has been under stress),
- laser profilometry (using a a 3D image to detect changes in the surface indicating corrosion, pitting, erosion and cracks)
- laser shearography (uses laser light to create an image before a surface is stressed, and then after to compare images)
- Leak Testing (LT); including bubble leak testing, pressure change testing, halogen diode testing and mass spectrometer testing
- Magnetic Flux Leakage (MFL); detecting magnetic flux density via powerful magnets to show reduction in materials due to pitting, erosion or corrosion
- Liquid Penetrant Testing (PT); application of a fluid with low viscosity to a material to highlight cracks or porosity
- Magnetic Particle Testing (MT); using magnetic fields to find discontinuities at or near the surface of ferromagnetic materials
- Neutron Radiographic Testing (NR); using beams of low energy neutrons to penetrate an asset so that the internal components to be viewed and examined to detect flaws
- Radiographic Testing (RT); using radiation passed through a test piece to detect defects
- Thermal/Infrared Testing (IR); both active and passive thermography are be used to either induce a temperature into a structure and measure the results (active), or observe the temperature range over a given structure
- Ultrasonic Testing (UT); using ultrasound to measure reflections or attenuations within the material