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Automated Inspection of Aircraft
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    NTL-AVIATION-AVIATION ; NTL-AVIATION-Aviation Safety/Airworthiness ;
  • Abstract:
    This report summarizes the development of a robotic system designed to assist aircraft inspectors by remotely deploying non-destructive inspection (NDI) sensors and acquiring, processing, and storing inspection data. Carnegie Mellon University studied the task of aircraft inspection, compiled the functional requirements for an automated system to inspect skin fastener rows, and developed a conceptual design of an inspection robot. A prototype of the robotic inspection system (the Automated Nondestructive Inspector or ANDI) was developed. The first phase of system development resulted in a laboratory system that demonstrated the abilities to adhere to the surface of an aircraft panel and deploy a standard eddy-current sensor. The second phase of development included enhancing the mechanics, adding video cameras to the robot for navigation, and adding an on-board computer for low-level task sequencing. The second-phase system was subsequently demonstrated at the FAA?s Aging Aircraft NDI Validation Center (AANC). During the final phase of development, emphasis was placed on the enhancement of the robot?s navigational system through automated recognition of image features captured by the navigation cameras. A significant development effort remains to be accomplished before this robotic inspection technology is suitable for operational deployment. Outstanding development issues include: (1) reducing the weight of the robot so that it is more comfortable to lift and position on the aircraft; (2) improving the mechanical reliability and speed of the system; (3) minimizing the scratching of the skin surface by the suction cups and eddy-current sensors; (4) reduction or elimination of the umbilical cable; and (5) automation of the manually controlled operations. To commercialize the technology, a new mechanical system would need to be designed and built incorporating the lessons of this work. Further integration of the software system with additional human-computer interaction features would also be required to simplify operation by the end user. However, before efforts are undertaken to commercialize this technology, a rigorous cost and operational benefit analysis should be accomplished to justify further development. 85 p.
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