Eiffel Team is composed of two research laboratories ONERA and UPMC (ISIR) associated with the end-user RTE (Réseau de transport d’électricité). RTE is the company in charge of the French electricity transmission network, which operates more than 100 000 km of power lines and 2 700 substations. The target application considered is autonomous preliminary damage inspection in a power substation, which can highly benefit from the deployment of advanced Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) technology to reduce maintenance costs and increase availability and security of electricity network.
This application presents many challenging constraints for real-world MAV deployment, for which technological and algorithmical innovations are put forth. Power substations are highly cluttered environments where GPS localization is unreliable due to electric disturbances. Moreover, wireless communications can also be perturbed and therefore it is necessary for the MAV to be able to fulfill its mission autonomously.
Vision-based localization and mapping will thus be the basis of MAV perception, with a focus on robustness to the environment characteristics: thin, linear and hollow structures (lattices and cables), reduced light conditions, unexpected or moving obstacles. Guidance and control algorithms will allow the on-line definition of exploration with real-time adaptation to the environment, including security guarantees regarding the avoidance of static or dynamic obstacles and tolerance to wind disturbances.
The pilot experiment will take place at an actual RTE power substation. After reaching autonomously a waypoint while avoiding forbidden areas and unexpected obstacles, a local autonomous exploration and mapping of a delimited area will be performed before returning to starting point. The cluttered environment will contain many linear and hollow structures, and illumination conditions may be degraded. This final mission will demonstrate the interest for autonomous damage inspection and its impact on future crisis management.