Performing maintenance operations of a large structure, such as wind turbines, dams, and power plants, is time-consuming, complicated, and costly. Moreover, it is difficult for an individual to perform maintenance operations such as inspection, drilling, surface treatment, etc. on structures with limited accessibility. Airbus, an international frontrunner in the aerospace sector, came to breakthrough for maintaining difficult-to-access structures using unmanned aerial vehicles.
The details of the technology are disclosed in a recently published patent application. In accordance with the patent application, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with a maintenance tool capable of performing the desired maintenance operation on a limited access surface of a structure while the UAV is hovering adjacent to and in contact with the surface. Further, the UAV includes a controller coordinating the respective rotation of rotors of the UAV and hence controlling the flight of the UAV to a location on the surface.
The UAV establishes a standoff contact to the surface of the structure. Once the stand-off contact is established, the controller controls the rotors to produce a net thrust that maintains the UAV stationary at the location where the maintenance operation is to be performed. Then, the UAV activates the maintenance tool to perform the maintenance operation on the surface. Thereafter, the controller reorients the rotors to produce a net thrust that causes the UAV to skim to a second location for performing the maintenance operation.
Further, utilizing the UAV, an operator may safely perform maintenance operations on large structures.
Publication Number: US11079760B2
Patent Title: Methods for maintaining difficult-to-access structures using unmanned aerial vehicles
Publication date: 2021-08-03
Filing date: 2018-11-28
Inventors: Joseph L. Hafenrichter, Gary E. Georgeson
Assignee: Boeing Co