ARCOW project focuses on the implementation and validation of enabling technologies to safely introduce aerial robots collaborating with humans in aircraft manufacturing plants. The main objectives are twofold: First, to develop an aerial robot able to deliver light goods (small tools, bag of rivets, seals, etc.) to the different working stations while navigating within an aircraft manufacturing plant. The second objective is the development of a low-cost localization system for costly tools or portable machinery into the plant in order to build an improved Foreign Object Debris (FOD) monitoring system. Safety, reliability and human-aware operation will be key factors in the project.

The new manufacturing paradigm in the aerospace sector pursues the acceleration of delivery rates through the gradual implementation of automated processes. Aerial robots can contribute to this automation process by providing some intrinsic capabilities like flexibility, fast response and availability, but at the cost of solving the challenge of safe indoor navigation in man-made GPS-denied environments. ARCOW (Aerial Robot Co-Worker in Plant Servicing) project is focused on the implementation of two particular challenging applications that will improve productivity by reducing operation time and manufacturing costs in aeronautics.

The first application consists on the localization and identification of some goods that can cause Foreign Object Damage (FOD) when forgotten by workers inside aerostructures. The second one is the logistic process of light goods (tools, bag of rivets, seals, cleaning napkins, small components…) that involve hundreds of small parts required in aircraft manufacturing. The delivery of these goods traditionally generates many displacements of the workers between storage facilities and the assembly positions that are usually performed at a significant height. Therefore, both applications have a large impact on the manufacturing operations, representing between 10% and 15% of the processing time and 10% of the production lead-time. The elimination of these waste times by using aerial robots can generate an important business profit.

The ARCOW project will focus on the following tasks:

  • 3D environment mapping.
  • Odometry and long-term aerial robot localization in GPS-denied areas using local sensing and pre-computed maps.
  • Human-aware collision-free autonomous navigation and planning.
  • User interface for high-level task allocation.
  • Foreign Object Debris (FOD) monitoring based on low-cost range-only localization of items in a logistic dispatching cell.
  • Autonomous delivery system for aerial robots.







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