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Drones with arms that may end up with accidents of work at height

Only in the oil sector are spent per year in maintenance inspection in Europe about 600,000 million euros, according to the director of the Group of Robotics, Vision and Control of the University of Seville, spain Anibal Ollero. But this cost could be drastically reduced thanks to a european project in which also scientific adviser to the Centre for Aerospace Technologies (CATEC) operates with a team of researchers. It's called Aeroarms and aims to develop drones for the inspection of industrial maintenance with the reduction in accidents from working at height.

“In a single refinery, there are 40,000 km of pipes. This means the 50,000 per year”, explains the professor of seville and coordinator of the project. But with the drones with arms that your team has developed, “you can save in a single refinery, approximately 700,000 euros and do it 10 times faster.” The strong point of these machines is precisely their capacity to manipulate with these arms: “Are you able to do an installation in a site inaccessible, install a sensor or an antenna or to measure the corrosion of a pipe to several meters of height.”

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The European Commission gave last year to CATEC for this project one of the most prestigious awards in Europe on innovation: the Innovation Radar Prize 2017. The use of these aircraft could reduce the number of occupational accidents of the workers that perform some work of inspection of high risk. “The goal is that the drone can access places that currently access workers hanging with ropes or scaffolds. With these systems Sahabet eliminate falling by work in heights”, says Ollero.

Now, the european team which works in Aeroarms is formed by approximately 40 people from Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain. During the project, which will end in 2019 and it is endowed with a budget of more than 5.7 million euros, the researchers have worked with dozens of prototypes. Potter states that one of these drones is industrialice when the project is done in may of next year. “It might cost a few tens of thousands of euros”, he says.

The researchers have already flown these drones to take measurements of the thickness of pipelines, tanks and reservoirs in industries in Germany and in Spain. “We have built with a weight less than 25 kg and dimensions appropriate to comply with the european regulations”, explains the professor interviewed in the IROS 2018 —the congress of robots largest in the world.

in Addition, the aircraft are designed to operate autonomously. Although, according to Potter, the operator can intervene in the event of an accident or when deemed necessary: “For example, if you are inspecting a pipe, this you can manually change the trajectory of the cart and the drone automatically adapts to follow”.

Drones that fly like birds

The European Research Council has given to Potter a grant of 2.5 million euros for new research on new designs of drones. Its intention is to create machines that fly like birds. “I want you to fly by flapping its wings, or planning, to stand in a bar or a ledge and manipulate like a bird when building a nest or feeding their young”, explains.

Potter considered that currently the drones have two limitations. On the one hand, the energy: “you Can fly, 15 or 30 minutes and sometimes that is not enough.” On the other hand, the interaction with the people: “you can't be flying around people or trying to run into and generate sparks, but they have to be replaced by other methods to be able to fly. Nature offers us these possibilities.”

humans, he argues, have always tried to use concepts which are in the nature. “Birds fly by minimizing the energy. It is flapping wings only when necessary, using unconventional materials for these you can fold and make better use of the wind. The idea comes from nature and a natural evolution of the technology of the drones,” he concludes.

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