Drones Inspect One of the Longest Bridges in Germany
Drones can go places convectional devices can’t. It is deployed when an inspection or operation is too dangerous for humans to carry out. What we are talking about is the Aibot X6 developed by Aibotix in Kassel. The hexacopter was developed to meet the highest standards for industrial inspections and measurements.
The Aibot X6 was able to utilize its unique features when inspecting the famous Koehlbrandbridge in Hamburg, Germany. The bridge spans approximately 3600 m (2.3 miles). The second longest bridge in Germany, and is used by 30.000 vehicles every day. To ensure the safety of all of these drivers, the bridge is submitted to a complex examination procedure. The exact process of the inspection is regulated by DIN norm 1076 with the aim of documenting the current state to detect damages in time.
The Aibot X6 enables clear time and cost-saving potential for large objects such as the Koehlbrandbridge compared to conventional methods with industrial climbers, cherry pickers and cranes. The Aibot X6 circles around the bridge and delivers high-resolution videos and images.
It did not just inspect the outside of the 50 m high pillars of the Koehlbrandbridge but also inspected the inside. This is an enormous advantage compared to conventional methods. Up to now the dark internal space was lit by construction lights. This method has restricted reach since the illumination of the lights is limited to 15 m. The Aibot X6 enables the inspectors to examine other areas as well. By equipping the copter with an LED-flood light, it can illuminate precisely when and where needed. Even the ceilling of the pylon was inspected by a camera mainted on top. The “Ontop-Camera” is a specially developed solution for these kinds of applications. With conventional methods these kinds of views from below the inspected object are not possible. At the same time a live video can be transmitted to the ground-station or to video eyewear. Through the live video the Aibot X6 can be brought into position quickly and easily, and the relevant parts displayed instantly. Th e ultra-light carbon frame shields the propellers from collisions. This feature was of significant importance when inspecting the inside of the pillars.
These advantages can be utilized during the yearly visual-inspections. To create aerial photographs, the Aibot can be programmed to fly automatically in a fixed route using predefined flight plan, or it can be flown manually. No knowledge of model flight is necessary. Picture based 3D modeling software such as Agisoft or Enso can than use the geo-referential photos to build textures for an orthophoto respectively 3D models. Through regular inspections, the generated 3D models can be compared to detect and display changes that are in the millimeter range. This enables the inspection personal to gather information concerning the bridges condition. The experienced bridge inspectors of the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) are enthusiastic about the features of the Aibot X6 and are thankful for the immense range of application that it offers, which prove to be a significant reduction to their workload.
“Especially during inspections following the DIN 1076 norm the Aibot can be an enormous help when improving the inspection quality. The copter is small and can be used to access poorly accessible areas, for example zones that are located high above water or inside the pillars of a bridge.” Says Martin Boldt who is responsible for the structure and building inspections at the Hamburg Port Authority.
Furthermore the HPA can also imagine using the copter during the main and additional inspections particularly for the inspection of the pillars. They look forward to working with Aibotix in the future.
View this video of the bridge and inspection: