Guide to Industrial Inspection Robots: Identifying the Task you Want to Automate

Industrial inspection robots are mobile data-gathering systems: they carry measurement sensors and are designed to navigate facilities built for humans. The usage of this technology is rapidly growing, yet comparing different robotic inspection offerings can be overwhelming. It involves knowing why you require the technology, considering the suitability of an entire solution, i.e., looking beyond the physical robotic carrier platform, evaluating the solution from an end-to-end perspective, and ultimately partnering with an enterprise-level vendor.
If you are interested in using ground robots to automate industrial inspection jobs in your plant operations, this three-part article series is for you:

They will equip you to evaluate different platforms, understand the industrial inspection ecosystem, and make informed decisions around requirements, applications, and suitability.
This article focuses on the first step in adopting a robotic solution: determining what you want to accomplish with inspection robots.

Why Should I Use an Inspection Robot?

First, ask yourself what you can accomplish with robotic automation solutions.
Automation technology offers tremendous opportunities for:

  • efficiency gains
  • cost savings
  • production increases

Different types of inspection robots bring various levels of benefit.
For example, compared to the basic coverage provided by stationary sensors, mobile inspection robots offer a more scalable and effective method for continuously collecting and analyzing digital operational data.

This approach significantly impacts the effectiveness of inspections and remote operations and improves safety by removing human workers from hazardous environments.

To take advantage of these benefits, plant operators use autonomous robots that can navigate multi-story environments, tolerate adverse conditions, and gather valuable operational insights. Autonomous robotics technology is relevant to all asset-intensive industries, including oil & gas, chemicals, mining, energy & utilities, and construction.
All the innovative asset owners know this and increasingly use robots in their inspection and workforce planning.

What Kind of Industrial Inspections can Robots Automate?

As reported at the beginning of this article, the type of inspection task you want to automate will determine the kind of inspection robots you should hire. In fact, the type and quality of data that can be delivered will vary from robot to robot.

The first step in ensuring that an inspection robot solution can work effectively is to be clear about the jobs that inspection robots can automate.

Inspection robots create value by efficiently performing various essential and repetitive jobs autonomously, which allows you to collect and manage your inspection and monitoring data.

Typical jobs automated by industrial-grade inspection robots include:

Visual inspection by ANYmal that shows a level valve in the open state
Monitor Assets in Operations

Detect equipment failures early and take preventive maintenance action to avert costly defects and downtime.

What sensor does the robot need?
Visual optical zoom camera
Directional ultrasonic microphone

Thermal inspection by ANYmal with a thermal camera
Identify Thermal Anomalies

Powerful, previously undetected insights about the condition of equipment through frequent automated thermal inspection.

What sensor does the robot need?
High quality thermal camera

A map that show the spread of gas as a gas detection map
Detect Gas Presence

Monitor combustible and toxic gas concentration levels in real-time and enable operators to react to gas leaks early.

What sensor does the robot need?
Range of toxic and/or combustible gas sensors

3D Lidar scan that shows a mining facility
Enable Reality Capture

Create and update existing 3D models on-demand, more accurately, cheaper, and quicker.

What sensor does the robot need?
360° Lidar scanner

Looking Ahead

Once you have compared the tasks you want to automate with what inspection robots can do, educate yourself further by reading part two of this series, which focuses on selecting inspection robots based on your industrial environment.

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