RPAS Positioning Technology

Novadem, France has unveiled a new positioning technology for RPAS allowing automatic inspection of structures without GPS coverage. The LPS (Local Positioning System) technology, using its own terrestrial beacons and totally independent of satellite coverage, permits, for the first time, to perform fully automatic inspection with centimeter accuracy of structures.

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Novadem, manufacturer of micro RPAS for civil and military applications since 2006, is a French specialist in structure inspection. Among its customers are major players in the field of structural inspection such as SPIE Batignolles Technologies, EGIS or SETEC DIADES. Some of our customers have been using the U130 micro RPAS for more than five years. Consequently we have acquired an in-depth knowledge of the needs linked to the use of RPAS for the inspection of complex structures », explains Novadem director, Pascal Zunino.

Some of these needs include the precise positioning of the RPA close to and even under structures. Indeed, in these conditions, the RPA is often denied GPS signal access due to the masking of available satellite signals. In such cases, operators have no other choice, but to perform these inspections in manual piloting mode, making it difficult and even dangerous. Moreover, the analysis of pictures to find and locate the structures’ defects is long and tedious. To face this challenge, Novadem has developed during two years the technology called LPS.

The LPS concept is similar to that of GPS, but instead of using satellites, it uses terrestrial beacons which create a local positioning network under the structure. This network can easily be extended by adding beacons, each of them covering a 200 meters radius area. As a result, the solution is fully independent from the satellite coverage with unprecedented capacities :

– A positioning precision of 10 centimeters in the three dimensions.

– A fast acquisition with 25 measures per second.

– A constant quality of measurement and signal availability.

– A position measurement independent from the evolution area (brightness, type of surface,…).

– A user-specified origin of measurement.

These performances give new perspectives to inspections performed by RPAS, thanks to flights that can be 100% automated, even under structures. It is now possible to ensure the repeatability of the inspection over time. As a result, the security and efficiency of missions is significantly increased compared to a manual piloted mission. Add to that a more precise geo-referencing of pictures, allowing to optimise the flight plan in the areas to inspect and to rationalise the volume of data, thus simplifying the processing.

Difficult inspections will no longer be reserved to experts in piloting but accessible to all. The use of the LPS technology can satisfy indoor (buildings, tunnels,…) and outdoor inspections (wind turbines, high-tension pylons,…). The LPS technology will be soon experimented by several companies specialised in structural inspection and will become commercially available in the course of 2015.