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IR Drone Imaging Keeps Vessels Shipshape

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The UAV launches straight up from the deck of the USS Midway, its operator carefully maneuvering it in front of the ship’s air traffic control tower. Along its predetermined flight path, the UAV captures lidar measurements and IR imagery for a few minutes before descending back to its landing pad.
Dan Jennings, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific, operates a commercial-off-the-shelf unmanned aerial vehicle outfitted with a corrosion/anomaly detection sensor payload and processing scheme aboard the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, California, during a demonstration the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global TechSolutions Topside Drone project. Courtesy of Bobby Cummings, US Navy.
Dan Jennings, of the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific, operates a commercial off-the-shelf UAV outfitted with a corrosion/anomaly detection sensor payload and processing scheme. He's aboard the USS Midway Museum in San Diego during a demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global TechSolutions Topside Drone project. Courtesy of Bobby Cummings, U.S. Navy.

Topside Drone is a product of a corrosion/anomaly detection sensor payload and processing scheme, outfitted to a commercial off-the-shelf UAV. The technology inspects and detects material defects, corrosion, warping, and other conditions that can plague naval vessels. The drone flies around the area of inspection taking photographs and measurements to determine if corrosion exists, and, if so, how severe it is.

“Corrosion is there all the time; elements like rain and seawater are constantly corroding a ship,” said Lt. Rouben Azad, a student at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. “I have been on ships where it is difficult for the human eye to identify corrosion. Through infrared imagery, the Topside Drone inspection technology can identify corrosion from 80 feet away.”

Topside Drone features complementary payloads for data collection. A lidar payload uses pulsed laser light to measure distances to an object and accurately captures the geometry of everything in line of sight. With that information, it is able to construct a digital model of the ship.

A second payload, featuring a visible/IR camera, captures images that orient geometrically to the digital model. The images are then algorithmically inspected for corrosion with machine vision.

In addition to providing enhanced identification capabilities, Topside Drone will also reduce sailors' maintenance workload.

“Sailors spend a lot of their time looking at different things on the ship, from corrosion to other equipment,” said Mark Bilinski, NIWC Pacific scientist and the integrated project team lead for Topside Drone. “A UAV can go around and take photos of the topside of a ship, collect that data quickly and autonomously, and then the data can be evaluated to identify if corrosion exists without tying up a sailor’s time.”

TechSolutions, ONR Global’s rapid-response science and technology prototyping initiative, is the sponsor for this developing technology. TechSolutions accepts requests directly from sailors on the deck plates and Marines on the front lines, and delivers prototype solutions within approximately 12 months.

Vision-Spectra.com
Nov 2019
GLOSSARY
lidar
An acronym of light detection and ranging, describing systems that use a light beam in place of conventional microwave beams for atmospheric monitoring, tracking and detection functions. Ladar, an acronym of laser detection and ranging, uses laser light for detection of speed, altitude, direction and range; it is often called laser radar.
BusinessNavyUAVlidarinfraredinspectionDronemilitaryTechSolutions

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