Bespoke Inspection Platforms

TIM: Tree Inspection Microdrone *SG MARK 2018*

The Tree Inspection Microdrone (TIM) is a lightweight and low-risk micro unmanned aerial system (mUAS) platform designed to support arborists with the visual assessment of tree defects at high altitude, which normally is a highly laborious, manual and dangerous procedure. An iterative design methodology with the end-users (NParks) translates the user needs and into key design requirements that are embodied in mUAS design. TIM features unique ducted propeller guard design that balances the aerodynamics performance of mUAS while protecting the spinning propellers free from tree leaves and debris striking it during its flight deep in the tree canopy. The structurally crash-resistant yet lightweight frame that poses minimal lethality risk to the users and non-flying crowd nearby, is fabricated from carbon-fibre composite and is optimized using computer-aided finite-element analysis. A high-definition visual inspection system is driven by a compact and lightweight linkage mechanism synthesized using an analytical approach to fit within the physically-constraint form factor of the platform and allow the inspection system to tilt up and down to target different areas of the tree during flight. The vision system is accompanied by a high-powered LED system to provide illumination of cavities and crevices for enhanced inspection. This system has been tested by the National Parks Board (NParks) for rapid tree inspections and seeks to make tree inspections process safer, more efficient, and friendly to the users and public.

TIM has been used for rediscovery of a species of orchid thought to be previously extinct!

  • P. K. F. Leong, C. Lee, S. Teo, F. E. L. Tay, P. Ang, E. S. Lin and T. W. Yam, “Re-encounter of an orchid thought extinct since its 1889 holotype collection in Singapore,” Nature in Singapore, no. 11, pp. 27-36. Direct Download
Featured in:
  • INDESIGNLIVE, “10 Outstanding Winners of SG Mark 2018,” 6 Apr 2018.
  • The Straits Times (YouTube), “NParks demonstrating the use of a drone to inspect trees,” 28 Apr 2018.
  1. C. H. Tan, J. T. H. Goh, W. J. Ang, J. L. Lee, E. S. Lin, G. S. Soh and S. Foong, “Design and Development of Micro-Aerial Vehicle for Tree Inspections,” 2017 IEEE International Conference on Cybernetics and Intelligent Systems (CIS) and IEEE Conference on Robotics, Automation and Mechatronics (RAM), Ningbo, 2017. doi: 10.1109/ICCIS.2017.8274844


SWIRL: Surveyor With Intelligent Rotating Lens *SG MARK 2018*

Inspection of tunnels or enclosed infrastructure is extremely challenging due to the inaccessibility and unknown and potentially hazardous conditions contained in these environments. In many situations, unmanned ground vehicles are not well suited because of the difficulty in getting access to the tunnels and or obstacles on the ground. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) provide a viable alternative as they are unaffected by ground conditions. However, commercial UAVs are designed for high altitude aerial imagery and are not appropriate for short range detailed imaging of tunnel surfaces. In addition, autonomous flight is usually achieved via GPS positioning which is not available in these enclosed areas. SWIRL is a smart UAV platform that is customized and optimized for autonomous operation within tunnels and capture high fidelity images for subsequent image processing and defect detection and classification. Rather than incorporate existing optical imaging systems, an innovative 360-degree rotating camera system is conceived to allow undistorted imaging of the tunnel inner circumference surface using only one camera. Using advanced image stitching algorithms, the captured images of the inner surface of the tunnel can combined to create a composite panoramic-like image that can be transformed into an intuitive interface similar to ‘Google Street View’ for users to navigate through and inspect specific parts of the tunnel. The UAV will also be fitted with advanced light-based range sensors to provide accurate and robust sensing of tunnel surface for autonomous operation inside the tunnels. The team is currently performing trials with the Public Utilities Board (PUB).


VIRGO: Bio-Inspired Spherical Rolling Miniature Robot *SG MARK 2017*

Virgo is a miniature spherical robot designed for multi-agent intelligent surveillance and reconnaissance in an urban environment. Its development seeks to advance miniaturization of robotic base technologies to support locomotion, sensing and adaptive autonomy. This technology is achieved through novel mechatronic design that allow for seamless integration of modules in a complex multi-modal structural and functional system together with sensor fusion approaches. It employs efficient rolling locomotion and is equipped with an outer spherical shell that protects the device from harsh environments. It has autonomy capability such as waypoint navigation in a GPS denied environment and fits in the palm of your hand. It can be tailored to form a sensor network of IoT kinetic devices to performs vision, inertial, odometry and magnetic sensing. The current system is fully 3D printed, has a diameter of 6 cm, weights 80g and comes with nRF and Wifi communications. It is equipped a ARM Cortex-M4 with battery life of 2 hours under full load. Unlike the hardware of existing sensor network system, which is passive, this technology have the advantage of being able to perform adaptive hardware re-configuration based on needs.

  1. F. Wu, A. Vibhute, G. S. Soh, K. L. Wood and S. Foong, “A Compact Magnetic Field-Based Obstacle Detection and Avoidance System for Miniature Spherical Robots,” Sensors. 2017; 17(6):1231, doi:10.3390/s17061231
  2. X. Niu, A. P. Suherlan, G. S. Soh, S. Foong, K. Wood and K. Otto, “Mechanical development and control of a miniature nonholonomic spherical rolling robot,” 2014 13th International Conference on Control Automation Robotics & Vision (ICARCV), Singapore, 2014, pp. 1923-1928. doi: 10.1109/ICARCV.2014.7064610
  3. V. A. Ajay, A. P. Suherlan, G. S. Soh, S. Foong, K. L. Wood and K. Otto,  “Localization and Trajectory Tracking of an Autonomous Spherical Rolling Robot Using IMU and Odometry,” 2015 ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Volume 5A: 39th Mechanisms and Robotics Conference:V05AT08A058. doi:10.1115/DETC2015-47223
  4. F. Wu, L. Maréchal, A. Vibhute, S. Foong, G. S. Soh and K. L. Wood, “A compact magnetic directional proximity sensor for spherical robots,” 2016 IEEE International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics (AIM), Banff, AB, 2016, pp. 1258-1264. doi: 10.1109/AIM.2016.7576943
  5. Y. Hu, A. Vibhute, S. Foong and G. S. Soh, “Autonomous docking of miniature spherical robots with an external 2D laser rangefinder,” 2016 IEEE Region 10 Conference (TENCON), Singapore, 2016, pp. 3525-3529. doi: 10.1109/TENCON.2016.7848712
  6. A. R. Chowdhury, A. Vibhute, G. S. Soh, S. Foong, K. L. Wood, “Implementing Caterpillar Inspired Roll Control of a Spherical Robot”, 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Singapore, 2017, pp. 4167-4174. doi: 10.1109/ICRA.2017.7989479
  7. S. Satria, S. Foong, G. S. Soh and K. L. Wood, “Robust Variable Phase Shaper for Vibration Suppression of Start-Stop Motion of a Spherical Rolling Robot,” 2017 IEEE International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics (AIM), Munich, 2017, pp. 1675-1681. doi: 10.1109/AIM.2017.8014259
  8. A. R. Chowdhury, G. S. Soh, S. Foong, K. L. Wood, “Experiments in Second Order Sliding Mode Control of a CPG based Spherical Robot”, 20th IFAC World Congress, vol. 50, no. 1, 2017, pp. 2365-2372. doi: 10.1016/j.ifacol.2017.08.426