“Topside Drone” is a development of a corrosion/anomaly detection sensor payload and processing scheme, outfitted to a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) UAV. The technology will inspect and detect material defects, corrosion, warping and other conditions plaguing naval vessels. The drone flies around the area of inspection and takes photographs and measurements for evaluation to determine if corrosion exists—and the severity.
TechSolutions—the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global’s rapid-response science and technology prototyping initiative—is the sponsor for this developing technology.
“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, California, who attended the demonstration. “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 (Light Detection and Ranging) payload uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure distances to an object. A LiDAR scan accurately captures the geometry of everything in line of sight and is used to create a digital model of the ship.
A second payload of visible/infrared camera captures images that orient geometrically to the digital model. The images are then algorithmically inspected for corrosion using computer vision.
In addition to enhanced identification capabilities, Topside Drone will reduce the maintenance demand for Sailors.