Visible to the public CPS: Synergy: Collaborative Research: Designing semi-autonomous networks of miniature robots for inspection of bridges and other large infrastructuresConflict Detection Enabled

Project Details
Lead PI:Nuno Martins
Co-PI(s):Sarah Bergbreiter
Richard La
Performance Period:11/01/14 - 10/31/17
Institution(s):University of Maryland College Park
Sponsor(s):National Science Foundation
Award Number:1446785
949 Reads. Placed 205 out of 803 NSF CPS Projects based on total reads on all related artifacts.
Abstract: Designing semi-autonomous networks of miniature robots for inspection of bridges and other large civil infrastructure According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the United States has 605102 bridges of which 64% are 30 years or older and 11% are structurally deficient. Visual inspection is a standard procedure to identify structural flaws and possibly predict the imminent collapse of a bridge and determine effective precautionary measures and repairs. Experts who carry out this difficult task must travel to the location of the bridge and spend many hours assessing the integrity of the structure. The proposal is to establish (i) new design and performance analysis principles and (ii) technologies for creating a self-organizing network of small robots to aid visual inspection of bridges and other large civilian infrastructure. The main idea is to use such a network to aid the experts in remotely and routinely inspecting complex structures, such as the typical girder assemblage that supports the decks of a suspension bridge. The robots will use wireless information exchange to autonomously coordinate and cooperate in the inspection of pre-specified portions of a bridge. At the end of the task, or whenever possible, they will report images as well as other key measurements back to the experts for further evaluation. Common systems to aid visual inspection rely either on stationary cameras with restricted field of view, or tethered ground vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles cannot access constricted spaces and must be tethered due to power requirements and the need for uninterrupted communication to support the continual safety critical supervision by one or more operators. In contrast, the system proposed here would be able to access tight spaces, operate under any weather, and execute tasks autonomously over long periods of time. The fact that the proposed framework allows remote expert supervision will reduce cost and time between inspections. The added flexibility as well as the increased regularity and longevity of the deployments will improve the detection and diagnosis of problems, which will increase safety and support effective preventive maintenance. This project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team specialized in diverse areas of cyber-physical systems and robotics, such as locomotion, network science, modeling, control systems, hardware sensor design and optimization. It involves collaboration between faculty from the University of Maryland (UMD) and Resensys, which specializes in remote bridge monitoring. The proposed system will be tested in collaboration with the Maryland State Highway Administration, which will also provide feedback and expertise throughout the project. This project includes concrete plans to involve undergraduate students throughout its duration. The investigators, who have an established record of STEM outreach and education, will also leverage on exiting programs and resources at the Maryland Robotics Center to support this initiative and carry out outreach activities. In order to make student participation more productive and educational, the structure of the proposed system conforms to a hardware architecture adopted at UMD and many other schools for the teaching of undergraduate courses relevant to cyber-physical systems and robotics. This grant will support research on fundamental principles and design of robotic and cyber-physical systems. It will focus on algorithm design for control and coordination, network science, performance evaluation, microfabrication and system integration to address the following challenges: (i) Devise new locomotion and adhesion principles to support mobility within steel and concrete girder structures. (ii) Investigate the design of location estimators, omniscience and coordination algorithms that are provably optimal, subject to power and computational constraints. (iii) Methods to design and analyze the performance of energy-efficient communication protocols to support robot coordination and localization in the presence of the severe propagation barriers caused by metal and concrete structures of a bridge.