Today drones are creating major expectations with respect to their potential impact on people's lives in the next 20 years. Imagine if, besides seeing, the drones could also touch and feel? Aerial contact CATEC technology brings this vision closer to reality by performing industrial contact inspections using a drone.

We, at CATEC, are one of the major European research centres developing drone technologies. Together with the University of Seville, we have been a world leader in aerial robotics manipulation since 2011. We developed the first drone in the world which uses a robotic arm for advanced operations in the air. Our drone is able to perform inspections, such as ultrasonic, that require being in contact with an object in the air.  The drone can be used for inspections of buildings or bridges, and therefore decreases the risks for people working at height. This is a major step for drones to not only “see” from the air but also to be used for operations such as inspections and therefore “touch and feel”.

Watch the video below to better understand our project:

Winning the 2017 Innovation Radar Prize has been a major achievement for us. The award has established our position as a technological leader in the development of technologies and applications of industrial drones. This prize is a sign of acknowledgement for the wider aerial robotics community which is already developing great innovations for European industries.

Our prize-winning drone performs very precise movements which include a completely new device that allows minimising external disruptions, which may occur during the work done in the air. This technology is critical in order to keep stability while the drone is performing contact operations.

We are very excited about the opportunities that winning this prize will generate. In the last two years leading end-user companies advised us on how to solve real industrial problems and further develop our technology which has improved our product and attracted wider industry interest. With growing expectations and a potential market of EUR 300 million per year in Europe alone, and our efforts to bring our technology from the lab to the market motivated us to recently patent this technology. Winning this prize is a major opportunity for us to increase awareness, allow us to exploit this technology and create a unique drone industrial solution that will differentiate European drone industry from the rest of the world.  

The initiative is part of the AEROARMS project, led by the University of Seville, and funded by the European Commission within the Horizon 2020 programme for Research and Development. In Budapest, our colleagues Miguel Ángel Trujillo (technical leader of the innovation), and Anibal Ollero (AEROARMS project coordinator) did a great job pitching seven years of hard work in just 3 minutes. They pointed out the high potential of this unique technology.  The level of all the participants was really high. Drones will revolutionise our lives, and contact drones will open a complete new set of opportunities  that will disrupt the inspection industry. Thanks to this prize, our technology is now much closer to the market and we expect to start seeing industrial solutions soon.

CATEC is a research centre managed by the Andalusian Foundation for the Aerospace Development (FADA). Follow us @FADA_CATEC or contact us by e-mail.