Towards Multi-Robot Inspection of Industrial Machinery - From Distributed Coverage Algorithms to Experiments with Miniature Robotic Swarms
Inspection of aircraft and power generation machinery using a swarm of miniature robots is a promising application both from an intellectual and a commercial perspective. Our research is motivated by a case study concerned with the inspection of a jet turbine engine by a swarm of miniature robots. This article summarizes our efforts that include multi-robot path planning, modeling of self-organized robotic systems, and implementation of proof-of-concept experiments with real miniature robots. While other research tackles challenges that arise from moving within 3D structured environments at the level of the individual robotic node, the emphasis of our work is on explicitly incorporating the potential limitations of the individual robotic platform in terms of sensor and actuator noise into the modeling and design process of collaborative inspection systems. We highlight difficulties and further challenges on the (lengthy) path towards truly autonomous parallel robotic inspection of complex engineered structures.