Arduous physical inspections of industrial equipment have been part of day-to-day life for staff at our Darmstadt thermal exhaust treatment plant since it was built.
The work, while vital for both safety and efficiency, is physically demanding and carried out in confined, hot, and noisy spaces. But a new four-legged friend could be about to change all that. We’re not talking about a dog, though. Instead, it’s a highly advanced robot.
Thermal exhaust treatment facilities play an important role in environmental protection. They contain a number of maintenance-intensive components that must be monitored frequently. Typically it’s up to humans to carry out routine inspections using sensors to detect anomalies in equipment such as pumps or fans, as well as inspect pressure and fluid levels in tanks.
But now, working with our partners Energy Robotics, we’re testing a whole new way of carrying out these inspections. Using Spot – a four-legged, nimble robot developed by Boston Dynamics – we’ve successfully carried out our first remote inspection mission.
Spot is the perfect choice of robot for these remote inspections, thanks to its small size, combined with its ability to climb stairs and traverse rough terrain. By equipping it with sensor technology and remote supervision functions from Energy Robotics, we’ve been able to remotely monitor equipment at our Darmstadt site.
Using an automated path through our facility, Spot carried out a one-hour inspection mission. It followed a course through a multi-story building that involved the robot negotiating multiple industrial staircases, grates, and other challenging terrains.
Spot reads the displays of gauges in its immediate vicinity and can also zoom in on distant objects using an externally-mounted optical zoom lens. In the thermal exhaust treatment facility, for instance, it monitors cooling water levels and notes whether condensation water has accumulated. It can also detect defects of wires or the temperature of pump components using thermal imaging.
At scale, this kind of robotic inspection could increase the frequency and consistency of facility performance monitoring. While using a larger, more diverse data set automatically collected by robots could also significantly improve long-term efficiency by predictive maintenance. Not to mention it will reduce the repetitive and often uncomfortable work of carrying out these inspections manually.
“We are one of the first companies in Europe testing Spot. The pilot with our new partners Energy Robotics and Boston Dynamics is a great demonstration of state-of-the-art autonomous robotics.”
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