Dr Mirko Kovac and his team have scooped the national category award at the UAE Drones for Good competition in Dubai.
In the event dubbed the 'world cup of drones', the team from Imperial topped the list of over 1000 submissions with Buildrone, a flying robot that is designed to detect and repair leaks in pipelines.
One of the biggest problems at industrial facilities is the risk of chemical leaks entering the environment. The main challenges of treating these leaks are the difficulty in reaching them and the risks taken by repair workers.
Current technology in this sector limits drones to only take sensor readings, but by adding a mechanism that can distribute polyurethane foam in liquid form mid-flight, Buildrone is able to effectively repair potentially dangerous leaks on-site and in real time, without risk to its human operators.
The drone consists of a quadrotor configuration with two integrated payload packages: a mechanism to deposit the foam and an onboard-decoupled manipulator delta-arm to balance the drone while hovering.
Once the foam is applied on the intended site, it takes less than five minutes to fully expand upon contact with air (up to 25 times its original volume), allowing it to effectively seal the intended area.
The industrial applications for this technology are huge, with partners in the oil and gas industry and the construction sector working closely with Dr Kovac's team on the project.
Find out more about research in the Aerial Robotics Lab at Imperial.
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