Automated aerial inspection for industrial sites

Monitoring and inspection require experts to often operate in inaccessible and dangerous environments.

Strathclyde's knowledge in the control of autonomous vehicles and Silverwing UK Ltd expertise in industrial site inspection, pulled aerial vehicles out of the Montrose Street laboratory in Glasgow to such operational scenarios.

The collaboration mitigated the risk of such activities by automating the inspection of industrialsites through autonomous aerial vehicles.

The control architecture

Researchers at Strathclyde worked hand in hand with staff at Silverwing to deliver a wi-fi based architecture able to control autonomous drones.

The architecture consists of a drone equipped with autonomous guidance and control laws and a ground station for monitoring the drone activity.

The two are connected through wi-fi technology of the same kind used to connect home PCs to the internet. The drone broadcasts the data gathered back to the base station for live monitoring. It also hosts a camera for detailed mapping and more in depth analysis.

Navigating into the wild

Strathclyde researchers built on previous experience gathered in autonomous flight through laboratory tests. However, when it came to operate without a tracking system, they pushed the boundary of satellite navigation.

Flexibility & proof of concept

The hardware and software architecture is designed to work with a range of aerial vehicles and GPS sensors and to be installed on any ordinary home performing computer.

The results achieved were demonstrated in an agricultural area in Dumfries where an ASCTEC Firefly, six Crotor drone was deployed to collect images of building roofs.

The team just had to position the drone within the range of the wi-fi, lift the drone off and push the 'GO Autonomously' button. From there on it was a one drone show.

After landing, the collected images were ready to be seen and analysed on the computer screen.

Dr Gordon Dobie, from our Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering stressed how:

Projects like this witness the commitment of Strathclyde to produce useful research to the advantage of national industry.