Researchers Successfully Tested A Novel Drone In Japanese Construction Tunnel Site


To save lives during search and rescue tasks or even just deliver our packages efficiently, drones need to be able to move through changing environments without getting lost. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have steered through open areas without any problems, but moving objects can be tricky, especially when they’re inside and there aren’t any GPS signals. Kenji Shimada and his students looked into this issue and developed a new technology that lets drones fly themselves in changing indoor settings.

Last winter, the new technologies—drone guidance, obstacle avoidance, dynamic object tracking, and mapping—were tested. Shimada’s drones had to find their way around a busy Japanese tunnel-building site without running into any moving workers. This was part of a project supported by Toprise Co., Ltd., and Obayashi Corporation, two companies in the same industry.

Novel Drone In Japanese Construction Tunnel Site

A professor of mechanical engineering named Shimada said, “Companies are investing in robotics to fill the gap because they know that young people don’t want to do dangerous, physical work anymore.”

The drones owned by Shimada could figure out the front of the tube excavation’s 3D shape. Builders can use this data to compare with plan data to see what parts of the tunnel are finished and what parts need to be built up even more without putting people in danger.

Zhefan Xu, the Ph.D. student in charge of the drone project, said, “As far as we know, this is the first time that 3D scanning has been done with an autonomous drone in a moving, under-construction tunnel environment.”

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The team created the first real-time system that uses a 3D mixed map to account for the static environment while tracking moving obstacles. This lets them predict the direction of moving things, like people working in the tunnel. With this technology, the team improved their old method to consider the need for in-motion drones to plan in real-time to avoid accidents. The combination method lets the drones know where a crash might happen and avoid it.

“This project got its idea from a scene in a sci-fi movie where a robot flew around an underground structure to check it out. It took me ten years of drone study and three years of work on this project to make it happen. Shimada said, “I believe this technology will make a big difference in making construction sites safer workplaces.” The 2023 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), which was put together by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), was where this study was shared.

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