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Inexpensive spatial position system for the automation of inspection with mobile robots

Mohammed Abdullah Al Rashed (Department of Engineering and Design, London South Bank University, London, UK)
Tariq Pervez Sattar (Department of Engineering and Design, London South Bank University, London, UK)

Industrial Robot

ISSN: 0143-991x

Article publication date: 20 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to develop a wireless positioning system. The automation of non-destructive testing (NDT) of large and complex geometry structures such as aircraft wings and fuselage is prohibitively expensive, though automation promises to improve on manual ultrasound testing. One inexpensive way to achieve automation is by using a small wall-climbing mobile robot to move a single ultrasound probe over the surface through a scanning trajectory defined by a qualified procedure. However, the problem is to guide the robot though the trajectory and know whether it has followed it accurately to confirm that the qualified procedure has been carried out.


The approach is to use sophisticated bulk electronics developed for game playing in combination with MATLAB to develop a wireless positioning system.


The paper describes the development of an inexpensive wireless system comprising an optical spatial positioning system and inertial measurement unit that relates the 3D location of an NDT probe carried by a mobile robot to a computer-aided drawing (CAD) representation of the test structure in a MATLAB environment. The probe is located to an accuracy of ± 2 mm at distances of 5 m.

Research limitations/implications

Positioning range is limited to 5 m. Further development is required to increase this range.

Practical implications

The wireless system is used to develop tools to guide the robot remotely to follow a desired scanning trajectory, obtain feedback about the actual trajectory executed by the robot, know exactly where an ultrasound pulse echo was captured, map identified defects on the CAD and relate them to the real test object.


An inexpensive spatial positioning system with sufficient accuracy for automated NDT purposes.



This paper is an extended and updated version of the paper presented at the 17th International Conference on Climbing and Walking Robots (CLAWAR), Poznan, Poland, 21-23 July 2014, where it received the Industrial Robot Journal “Highly Commended” award for practical innovation.


Al Rashed, M.A. and Sattar, T.P. (2014), "Inexpensive spatial position system for the automation of inspection with mobile robots", Industrial Robot, Vol. 41 No. 6, pp. 508-517.



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