The Aeroarms project is developing drones to carry out safety checks of hard-to-reach parts of industrial plants.

Aeroarms: safer industrial maintenance and inspection with robotic arms using Artificial Intelligence

Checks on pipelines at industrial plants, especially oil and gas facilities, are currently done by humans: this takes time, is expensive, and can be dangerous. Moreover, today’s drone technology tends to be limited to tasks that require drones to ‘see’ from the air, but what if they could also touch and feel? The Aeroarms (AErial RObotics System integrating multiple ARMS and advanced manipulation capabilities for inspection and maintenance) project is tackling these two issues. It is working to build advanced drones to transport instruments and use them to carry out checks on these pipelines. The drones will be able to use one arm to hold on to the object they are inspecting and another arm to inspect it with precision.

Aeroarms is the first ever aerial robotic system with heavy payload drones mounted with multiple arms and autonomous control, perception and planning capabilities for safer industrial inspection and maintenance. Based at the Center for Advanced Aerospace Technologies (CATEC) in Spain, one of Europe’s major research centres developing drone technologies, the project was the winner of the 2017 Innovation Radar Prize, a European Commission initiative which identifies high-potential innovations and innovators in EU-funded research and innovation ICT projects. Project researchers are also developing helicopter-based aerial manipulators, which can inspect and manipulate objects with the help of a hand-held camera, and other kinds of aerial robot that can carry out inspections in a confined space where a helicopter cannot operate. In addition, they are exploring other related technologies, such as the installation of sensors that could detect problems with pipeline components.

Aeroarms in brief

  • Total Budget: EUR 5,719,602 (EU contribution: EUR 4,722,852)
  • Duration: 06/2015 – 05/2019
  • Countries involved: Spain (coordinator), Switzerland, Germany, France

Key figures in the European Union

  • Aeroarms could save a typical oil or gas refinery up to EUR 700,000 annually in inspection costs.
  • Inspections can be conducted up to 10 times faster.
  • Under Horizon 2020, the EU has already committed EUR 44 million funding through its Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) project on the integration of drones into European airspace.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is one of the most promising technologies for economic growth and addressing societal challenges in the years ahead. The new wave of AI-based innovations will profoundly impact not only digital products and services, but also traditional industry and the non- ICT sector, and will help to improve people’s everyday lives.

In April 2018 the European Commission presented a series of measures to increase public and private investment in AI, to prepare for socio-economic changes, and ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework. The new Digital Europe programme that the Commission is proposing for 2021-27, with an overall budget of EUR 9.2 billion, also includes EUR 2.45 billion of funding for AI.

Download the full project success story.

Project website