The new manufacturing paradigm in the aerospace sector pursues the acceleration of delivery rates through the gradual implementation of automated processes. This trend is leaded by Airbus Group in Europe, parent company of Airbus Defence and Space, as one of the two major aircraft manufacturers in the world.
Aerial robots can contribute to this automation process by providing some intrinsic capabilities like flexibility, fast response and availability, but at the cost of solving the challenge of safe indoor navigation in man-made GPS-denied environments. ARCOW (Aerial Robot Co-Worker in Plant Servicing) project is focused on the implementation of two particular challenging applications that will improve productivity by reducing operation time and manufacturing costs in aeronautics.
The first application consists on the localization and identification of some goods that can cause Foreign Object Damage (FOD) when forgotten by workers inside aerostructures. The second one is the logistic process of light goods (tools, bag of rivets, seals, cleaning napkins, small components…) that involve hundreds of small parts required in aircraft manufacturing. The delivery of these goods traditionally generates many displacements of the workers between storage facilities and the assembly positions that are usually performed at a significant height. Therefore, both applications have a large impact on the manufacturing operations, representing between 10% and 15% of the processing time and 10% of the production lead-time. The elimination of these waste times by using aerial robots can generate an important business profit.
Then, GRVC and CATEC will exploit their experience in the fields of localization, navigation, control, data fusion, multi-sensor perception and human machine interfaces (HMI) to develop and implement an aerial robot that will improve and make more efficient these manufacturing processes. Moreover CATEC will make available its indoor testbed, with a volume of 15x15x5 meters and equipped with a VICON tracking system, to contribute in the acceleration of the development and testing activities, increasing at the same time, the safety of the developed system and its technology readiness level.
Airbus DS is as well fully committed with the research teams and will make available for this project the needed resources to define and describe the constraints and limitations of these particular applications helping to identify the major challenges to be overcome. The pilot experimentation will serve Airbus DS to be a pioneer in the application of aerial robots inside manufacturing plants for repetitive automated-prone tasks like logistics and FOD ones. Then, the Challenge Team will work together to contribute to the advance of aerial robotics in non-explored and high impact applications.
ARCOW project will exploit the experience gained by GRVC and CATEC as technological partners of singular European robotics projects like EC-SAFEMOBIL (http://www.ec-safemobil-project.eu/) and ARCAS (http://www.arcas-project.eu/) where aerial robots are a core part, and exploit their know-how and capabilities in the fields of guidance, navigation, control, multi-sensor perception and implementation of advanced human machine interfaces (HMI).
The ARCOW project will focus on the following tasks:
3D environment mapping.
Odometry and long-term aerial robot localization in GPS-denied areas using local sensing and pre-computed maps.
Human-aware collision-free autonomous navigation and planning.
User interface for high-level task allocation.
Foreign Object Debris (FOD) monitoring based on low-cost range-only localization of items in a logistic dispatching cell.
Autonomous delivery system for aerial robots.