New Skygauge Inspection Drone Can Measure Thickness of Surfaces!
Skygauge Robotics, a North York, Ontario-based Vectored Propulsion Technologies Inc., announced a new aerial drone with a unique look last summer (2020) — that can fly in ways that other drones are unable to do — and is designed for inspecting construction sites, pipelines, and tanks. The system is able to make contact with surfaces for testing.
Skygauge Robotics was originally named “Mobile Industrial Robotics” and was founded in 2016 and emerged from its research phase just last year.
In terms of flight, most drones look and function similar to one another, if we exclude fixed-wing drones. The rotors tend to remain at a fixed angle that does not change during flight, whether it is four or six or eight motors. The Tricopters, however, were an exception, with a servo moving the rear motor. With the standard reliable quadcopter design, also comes limitations. Unless the drone is in forward, backward, or sideways flight, the rotors will generally (with few exceptions) be parallel, both to the horizon and to the body of the drone itself.
Routine inspections must be performed to maintain safe operations and in an effort to avoid disasters at oil and gas, utility, or other industrial facilities, as pointed out by Skygauge Robotics.
The Skyguage Robotics drone has been built with the purpose of having thea bility to fly at angles for challenging while inspection work. The X8 design, with eight motors, gives it enough strength to hold those sensors firmly against surfaces with the pressure required for a valid reading.
According to Skyguage, the continual increased pressure to reduce costs, minimize human involvement, and make work safer, inspection robots have emerged as the solution. Aker BP, a Norwegian oil and gas producer, has used Boston Dynamics Inc.‘s Spot quadruped robot to patrol its offshore rigs remotely.
Such an approach works most of the time, but for some applications, more versatility is required. The Skyguage drone offers such versatility as it can inspect the thickness of walls, pipes, etc. with a special probe that is placed against the surface of the item requiring inspection.
Trying to inspect the surface of something that isn’t vertical is difficult since you have to measure the thickness of the top surface or from beneath a pipe, which is not possible with a sensor sticking straight out from the head of the drone. However, the Skyguage drone comes to the rescue, because it has shifting motor/rotor angles independently. The long probe on the front has swappable sensors, similar to end effectors on robotic arms.
Skygauge Robotics points out that most drones perform only surface visual inspections with cameras. Nikita Iliushkin, co-founder and CEO of Skygauge Robotics, stated:
“We had come up with this ‘thrust vectoring’ drone design and found that it could perform jobs not possible with current designs. We found that by addressing the stability limitations, you could perform physical work tasks. This includes pressure washing, scrubbing, sanding, painting, and attaching a robotic arm for general work. Our vision is to create a workforce in the sky.
We went with ultrasonic testing at industrial sites because it was the most basic form of physical work, precisely attaching a sensor onto a designated target. The biggest challenge was creating a new control system from the ground up that can utilize the full capabilities of the design.”*
“Our customers wanted us to focus on functionality — tools. When compared with the current methods — workers on ropes and scaffolding — reduced flight time is not impactful because there is a large magnitude of time savings. In the future, we plan to use a tethered power source to further increase the flight time and productivity.”*
The company is offering its system as a full-service lease to inspection teams.
Skyguage Robotics’ new aerial drone — the quadcopter — with a unique and tremendous versatility is an amazing addition to the drone market. A drone that can fly in ways that no other drone can provides an essential solution to the inspection industry whether in the areas of inspecting construction sites, pipelines, tanks, etc.
With focus on functionality in contrast to many current methods where workers use ropes and scaffolding, the Skyguage quadcopter reduces flight time and increases productivity and safety.