Ports and harbours are the epicentres of the global arterial transport system connecting landside, inland waterway, and maritime spheres. Structural condition monitoring of the intermodal network of road and rail bridges, ships, and port infrastructure relies on non-destructive visual examination by in-situ engineers. SoA methods employ manually piloted UAS to capture camera inspection data. Port industry surveys reveal that 9% of respondents use UAS for port services, including RAPID partner Hamburg Port Authority, and adoption rates are projected to grow nearly five-fold within three years. UAS perform survey-data collection tasks in 10% time, and 0% cost of manual approaches and are faster at achieving complete surface coverage in difficult-to-access areas; the productivity gains improve operating costs and minimise disruption to transport system users. However, the process of fault identification during current UAS survey operation still requires mobilisation of scaffolding and elevated machines to support inspection engineers that must physically investigate and mark detected faults while working at height. As a result, the UAS cost savings are negated, the survey method is not scalable, and the benefits remain unexploited. The commercial impact of RAPID when applied to ship hull inspection would translate into a doubling of shipping industry profit margins through the reduction in survey inspection downtime and overheads. RAPID will elevate UAS surveying to the next level to automate improved scalability, profitability, and safety. It will unlock savings of up to €130,000 per survey for customers, generating revenue of €124 million and saving up to 100 lives per year by 2028.
Systemic perspective of the RAPID’s reinforcing validation and verification (V&V) strategy
Risk-aware Autonomous Port Inspection Drones
RAPID utilises Port access to shipping in inland waterways and the open seas and to the 85% of bridges that span rivers and canals. The project will improve safety throughout the maritime transport system by validating structural condition monitoring as-a-service. The interdisciplinary project strategy to extend the SoA from TRL 2 to TRL 5 focuses on removing safety barriers to regulatory, end-user, and societal acceptance. The project strategy to fast track impact leverages a Test-driven research design coupled with the capacity of the consortium to regularly field-validate outputs and channel the results to key stakeholders.
Cultivation of strategic partnership with major Ports and survey service companies will create channels to market, and RAPID contributions to improve regulations will ensure permission to operate the unmanned service. End users (HPA, XOC) and Expert Advisors are embedded in the research design (WP0), and seven of the nine partners are operational end-users of maritime and aviation unmanned vehicles, facilitating access to specialist equipment, realworld test opportunities, and expert personnel for evaluation of performance indicators. The Dynamic Systems Development methodology and sequence of gradually escalating TRL validation tests (WP6) allows RAPID to safely extend operational boundaries and respond to changing needs and priorities. RAPID builds upon the networks and experience of the consortium and uses impact-planning and tracking tools to engage influential knowledge brokers and project beneficiaries. WP 5 and WP 8 are dedicated to fostering dialogue, influencing, and sharing best practice with cross-sectoral stakeholders. The project scientific leads will expedite the early publication of literature. WP 7 will provide a clear post-project exploitation strategy to maximise the long-term societal benefit.
Improve planned operational safety by Digital Transformation of UAS risk management
Minimise UAS collision risk in complex BVLOS survey flight by developing swarm robustness
Extend UAS reach, duty cycle, and power reliability by developing Smart Energy Management
Improve efficiency, accuracy, and insight of structural condition monitoring by equipping the maintenance-inspection workflow with smart automation
Overcome resistance to adoption and inform legal regulations by clarifying and contributing to the development of laws and standards for USV / UAS operations
Integrate and validate the pilot UAS / USV enabled asset inspection service in Hamburg Port to demonstrate societally beneficial UAS services and improve public perception and acceptance.
Fast track the outcomes and technologies developed by RAPID by formulating the business model to replicate and scale the pilot service built upon the Hamburg demonstrator
The RAPID mission cycle
To achieve ground-breaking impact on UAS adoption for ensuring safety in transport, RAPID brings together critical attributes of MI workflow automation, safe UAS delivery, and service innovation. The maintenance inspection (MI) service is realised as a digitally transformed survey, with a typical use-case mission profile executing as shown below.