Wireless Self-powered Visual and NDE Robotic Inspection System for Live Gas Distribution Mains

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Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) under contract from Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory (DoE/NETL) and co-funding from the Northeast Gas Association (NGA), has completed the overall system design of the next-generation Explorer-II (X-II) live gas main NDE and visual inspection robot platform. The design is based on the Explorer-I prototype which was built and field-tested under a prior (also DoE- and NGA co-funded) program, and served as the validation that self-powered robots under wireless control could access and navigate live natural gas distribution mains. The X-II system design ({approx}8 ft. and 66 lbs.) was heavily based on the X-I design, ... continued below

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Burkett, Susan & Schempf, Hagen January 31, 2006.

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Description

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) under contract from Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory (DoE/NETL) and co-funding from the Northeast Gas Association (NGA), has completed the overall system design of the next-generation Explorer-II (X-II) live gas main NDE and visual inspection robot platform. The design is based on the Explorer-I prototype which was built and field-tested under a prior (also DoE- and NGA co-funded) program, and served as the validation that self-powered robots under wireless control could access and navigate live natural gas distribution mains. The X-II system design ({approx}8 ft. and 66 lbs.) was heavily based on the X-I design, yet was substantially expanded to allow the addition of NDE sensor systems (while retaining its visual inspection capability), making it a modular system, and expanding its ability to operate at pressures up to 750 psig (high-pressure and unpiggable steel-pipe distribution mains). A new electronics architecture and on-board software kernel were added to again improve system performance. A locating sonde system was integrated to allow for absolute position-referencing during inspection (coupled with external differential GPS) and emergency-locating. The power system was upgraded to utilize lithium-based battery-cells for an increase in mission-time. The system architecture now relies on a dual set of end camera-modules to house the 32-bit processors (Single-Board Computer or SBC) as well as the imaging and wireless (off-board) and CAN-based (on-board) communication hardware and software systems (as well as the sonde-coil and -electronics). The drive-module (2 ea.) are still responsible for bracing (and centering) to drive in push/pull fashion the robot train into and through the pipes and obstacles. The steering modules and their arrangement, still allow the robot to configure itself to perform any-angle (up to 90 deg) turns in any orientation (incl. vertical), and enable the live launching and recovery of the system using custom fittings and a (to be developed) launch-chamber/-tube. The battery modules are used to power the system, by providing power to the robot's bus. The support modules perform the functions of centration for the rest of the train as well as odometry pickups using incremental encoding schemes. The electronics architecture is based on a distributed (8-bit) microprocessor architecture (at least 1 in ea. module) communicating to a (one of two) 32-bit SBC, which manages all video-processing, posture and motion control as well as CAN and wireless communications. The operator controls the entire system from an off-board (laptop) controller, which is in constant wireless communication with the robot train in the pipe. The sensor modules collect data and forward it to the robot operator computer (via the CAN-wireless communications chain), who then transfers it to a dedicated NDE data-storage and post-processing computer for further (real-time or off-line) analysis. CMU has fully designed every module in terms of the mechanical, electrical and software elements (architecture only). Substantial effort has gone into pre-prototyping to uncover mechanical, electrical and software issues for critical elements of the design. Design requirements for sensor-providers were also detailed and finalized and provided to them for inclusion in their designs. CMU is expecting to start 2006 with a detailed design effort for both mechanical and electrical components, followed by procurement and fabrication efforts in late winter/spring 2006. The assembly and integration efforts will occupy all of the spring and summer of 2006. Software development will also be a major effort in 2006, and will result in porting and debugging of code on the module- and train-levels in late summer and Fall of 2006. Final pipe mock-up testing is expected in late fall and early winter 2006 with an acceptance demonstration of the robot train (with a sensor-module mock-up) planned to DoE/NGA towards the end of 2006.

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  • Report No.: none
  • Grant Number: FC26-04NT42264
  • DOI: 10.2172/876616 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 876616
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc879465

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Creation Date

  • January 31, 2006

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

Description Last Updated

  • Dec. 2, 2016, 6:41 p.m.

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Burkett, Susan & Schempf, Hagen. Wireless Self-powered Visual and NDE Robotic Inspection System for Live Gas Distribution Mains, report, January 31, 2006; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc879465/: accessed December 13, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.