Hamburg Port Authority relies on autonomous mobile robotics for bridge inspection.
#Robotics & Autonomous Things
Maintenance of Hamburg's Köhlbrand Bridge is expensive and extremely difficult. For this, humans must work their way through kilometres of dark concrete tunnel. The autonomous robot SPOT works 7 days around the clock. It explores the 4km long concrete structure of the Köhlbrand Bridge and inspects it for damage.
For some time now, the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) has been using drones - either on the water or in the air - to make the maintenance and expansion of the port infrastructure more efficient. This applies both to inspections of buildings and facilities, and to process monitoring and control of the facilities, which are very difficult physically, time-consuming or dangerous to reach.
Together with project partners Reply and Boston Dynamics, HPA has evaluated another possibility for technically supporting building inspections with the robotic dog SPOT. SPOT is an agile mobile robot equipped with various sensors that moves autonomously within the Köhlbrand Bridge. On its mission under the carriageway of the west ramp, SPOT uses a laser scanner and a camera with 30x zoom to take high-resolution photos of damaged areas on the structure wall. This is to test whether artificial intelligence and the sensor units can be used to capture a pre-recording of damage that can be displayed to the structure inspector during his inspection, e.g. via a Microsoft HoloLens.
In addition to our goal of capturing necessary information for structural inspections in areas where it is too dangerous or difficult for humans to be used, the issue of a shortage of skilled workers plays an important role. The use of robots and drones can help us here to be well positioned in the future.
CCO at the HPA
HPA is very satisfied with the deployment at Köhlbrandbrücke. The new technology has already proven to be very helpful, as manually checking and inspecting the 4km structure requires significant effort. Now, at almost 50 years old, the structure is ageing, and the inspection is becoming more time-consuming.
SPOT already supports the experienced engineers in their work. Many maintenance tasks, some of which are difficult or monotonous, can be carried out with a combination of different robots. Flying drones are only sometimes used as additional support. SPOT and his colleagues can thus make a valuable contribution to increasing the safety of bridges, tunnels or quay walls.
The collected data and 3D scans are used to create a digital twin of the Köhlbrand Bridge, which can be used to virtually simulate damage and ageing processes. Artificial intelligence will use the images from SPOT to precisely analyse every square centimetre of the bridge and report damage much more reliably than a human can.
The Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) has been operating future-oriented port management from a single source since 2005 and is active wherever safety and economic efficiency are concerned in the Port of Hamburg. The HPA meets the growing demands of the port with intelligent and innovative solutions. The HPA is responsible for the efficient, resource-saving and sustainable planning and implementation of infrastructure measures in the port and is the point of contact for all issues relating to water and land-based infrastructure, the safety and ease of shipping traffic, port railway facilities, real estate management, and economic conditions in the port. To this end, the HPA provides the necessary space and assumes all sovereign tasks and port management services. It markets special, port-specific expertise, and looks after Hamburg's port interests at a national and international level.
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