Today, there are more than 50,000 large merchant ships that require detailed structural inspections every five years, in accordance with maritime regulations. These inspections require from visually determining the surface of tanks and hulls, to assessing the loss of thickness in the hulls to avoid accidents or leaks. The ACIDRONES Project is a European grant project under the framework of the RIMA (Robotics for Infrastructure Inspection and Maintenance) project.
This program aims to push the capabilities of aerial robots to the limit for use in ultrasonic thickness gauging inspection and maintenance of ships and merchant vessels. Thanks to technological development, aerial robots will be equipped with manipulation capabilities to perform contact thickness inspections. These types of ultrasonic thickness gauging inspections are usually very costly, as they require reaching locations that are difficult to access and the use of scaffolding or specialized personnel for working at heights. With this project, the aerial robot (or drone) is intended to reach these locations to take the measurements needed. Thanks to artificial intelligence techniques and the latest technologies, the project aims to make these tasks real, raising the TRL of existing solutions to assist in these tasks. Thanks to the use of these drones, thickness measurement inspections can be performed in much less time, reducing costs and, above all, minimizing the risk of these activities.
Moreover, since it is carried out with a robot, all the information will be 100% digital and traceable. The ACIDRONES project has just started, but in just over a year it will be validated and demonstrated in Cadiz, in a realistic environment for the inspection of a ship’s hull and inside a transport tank. ACIDRONES is the union of VES (Vertical Engineering Solutions) and BUQUELAND, two Spanish companies with international projection. VES is a young technological spin-off, established in the south of Spain.
Since its creation in 2019, it has been offering drone inspection services for industry. The company, based in Algeciras, has an engineering development team in Seville, with the support of CATEC and the University of Seville, pioneers in the research of unmanned aerial systems. Buqueland is a company from Cádiz, present in the main industrial centers of the Iberian Peninsula and with a wide international presence.
It offers integral services of Quality, Inspection and Control by means of Non Destructive Testing and Dimensional Control, both in new construction processes and in repair and maintenance, in the industrial, naval, offshore, renewable energy, petrochemical and wind-offshore sectors, as well as Consulting & Technical Advice, Project Supervision and Inspections in Origin. Previously, it has collaborated with the University of Cadiz in an R&D project related to Industrial Radiography and currently it has been awarded by Navantia, in its northern delegation in A Coruña, an R&D&I project for the development of automated Phased Array Ultrasonics in welding inspection in X nodes, K,Y of Éolica Marina integrated within the F4ST Project, co-financed within the framework of the Operational Program FEDER Galicia 2014-2020, within the thematic objective 1, “to promote research, technological development and innovation”.