Assessment of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) for their application during Ship Inspection is carried out in comparison with those traditionally undertaken by the ship surveyors as per the rule criteria established by classification societies.
For this, extensive efforts have been made to analyse the RAS test results obtained during the trials both on board ship and on shore testing facility to assess RAS systems as a “Consistent, Reliable Technology”, and establish that Drones and Crawlers can either replicate or replace some of the work currently being carried out by the Ship Surveyors.
This assessment aimed at establishing measurable performance criteria for RAS systems developed within this project, both qualitative and quantitate, to assist ship surveyor to achieve equivalence between personal direct sensory experience of the object of examination and experience mediated by technological devices. In this regard, field trials both on-board the on-shore Testing Facility have provided a common environment for the assessment of RAS systems.
Assessment of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) platforms and performance of the associated software tools for their fit-for-purpose is undertaken with reference to:
- Operational safety
- Equivalence of RAS against traditional ship inspection
As a result, the following reasonable and measurable parameters for RAS systems have been identified and assessed:
- Following a given trajectory, performing obstacle detection, avoidance and crossing, reaching the target and taking a picture from the desired point of view and orientation.
- Camera Position estimation accuracy
- Number of significant points reached by the RAS vs number of significant points to be reached by IACS rules for close-up survey.
- Ability to take adequate pictures and gauging (TM) in the vicinity of the defect
- Quality of images, resolution, level of detail, contrast, distortion etc.
- Ability to identify the marker and/or recognizing defectsAbility to measure 2D distances on the structures
- Associated calibration procedures
- Ability of the platform to give the same outcomes in any conditions
- Operability in specific environmental conditions
- Compliance to recognized standards on cyber security
This has resulted in establishing a ‘Statement of Capability for RAS use in Classification Surveys’ by categorising the different performance criteria into the following to enable the ship surveyor assess RAS for their assistance during the ship inspection.
- Operational Safety
- Inspection Capabilities
- Sensor calibration & Test criteria
- Performance capabilities
- Operating Conditions
- Level of automation
In addition to the above, Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) of the employment of robotic technologies in ship inspections, considering the actual performances of RAS platforms, is undertaken to appraise the impacts and benefits of their adoption by establishing:
The main stakeholders participating in the market of the ship inspection services; Traditional and RAS assisted survey
• Available market for the proposed services using RAS technologies.
• Costs and benefits arising from the introduction of the new RAS technologies: Means of Accessibility, Opportunity and Safety costs and associated Benefits.
• Eventually, Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) from the perspective of different stakeholders, to evaluate profit and business viability.
By means of the Testing Facility, repeatable tests and measurements can now be performed for the evaluation of RAS performance and capability. The TF provides the robotics industry a low-cost alternative/complement to expensive and difficult on-board field trials, where extensive test campaigns can be carried out.
Being the TF a simulation environment, specific assessment has been done to understand to what extent the tests carried out in the TF can be considered as representative of the actual RAS performance in real world operational scenarios. Comparing the data and results obtained in TF tests with those collected during similar tests on board is usually not straightforward and sometimes not possible: different and uncontrollable test conditions and constraints found during onboard tests make direct comparison de-facto not meaningful or not reliable. Therefore, the TF must provide – and in fact does provide – technical and environmental conditions that are as realistic as possible, but controlled and repeatable, for the correct implementation of testing protocols and a reliable collection of data and results.
The Testing Facility then demonstrates as the most reliable and viable apparatus for a standardized, objective and repeatable certification processes for RAS and Service Suppliers. Based on the positive results of the assessment of the Testing Facility and Testing Protocols, a framework of normative instruments for the assessment of RAS and Service Suppliers and guidelines for design, implementation and verification of a testing facility for RAS assisted ship inspections can now be developed on solid grounds.