NASA has awarded Near Earth Autonomy (Near Earth) an SBIR Phase II contract to enable aerial close-proximity and contact sensing for inspection of industrial infrastructure.
Current methods for non-destructive testing at heights require scaffolding, boom lifts, or rope lines, taking critical assets out of use, and putting inspection personnel at risk.
Drones typically used for visual inspection at safe standoff distances, can’t be used because non-destructive testing requires contact to measure coating and material thickness or to detect deposits on the inside of tanks and ducts. This is a difficult task because drones can become unstable when in contact with a surface.
Near Earth Autonomy and Carnegie Mellon University’s AIR Lab have therefore received NASA support to demonstrate a proof of principle system to advance industrial aerial inspection with close-proximity imaging and contact sensing.
Commenting, Near Earth’s CEO, Dr. Sanjiv Singh, explained: “Our value proposition is to improve safety, accuracy, and efficiency in industrial and aerospace infrastructure inspection with sUAS-based close-proximity imaging and contact sensing.”
Adding: “Our partnership with Carnegie Mellon University and deep relationships with industrial leaders make us uniquely positioned to bring world-class contact sensing drone systems to the inspection market. We expect this newly created market to surpass $4bn by 2022.
“We are excited to collaborate with these innovators on pilot projects to save lives and radically increase up-time as we refine the technology for broad commercialization.”