(I am still tweaking this page!)
There are many industrial sites and buildings that have features that are difficult to reach or hazardous for humans to enter but nevertheless require inspection from time to time for routine or emergency reasons. Much progress has been made in recent years in the application of unmanned miniature aircraft, and radio controlled electric helicopters can now achieve flight times of up to to 15 minutes with lithium batteries. Manually flying a remote controlled helicopter in a confined area with obstacles is difficult and requires very good situational awareness. In many circumstances the UAV may be out of sight of the operator who will have to rely solely on on-board cameras, possibly in low light conditions, significantly reducing situational awareness and increasing the risk of collisions.
This project was conceived to develop a UAV that would be as autonomous as possible with current technologies, only requiring the operator to provide it with its destination coordinates. The UAV then pilots itself to the destination avoiding any obstacles en route.
I've published a paper on the UAV in Industrial Robot, it can be accessed here. My thesis will be made availalble shortly.
This is the poster that I made for the 2011 WMG annual conference: