Surface-Clinging Drone Developed for Better Bridge Inspections
Michael Alba posted on October 12, 2016 |
PRODRONE’s new L-shaped airframe can crawl along vertical and horizontal surfaces.
The PRODRONE PD6-CI-L and its characteristic L-shaped airframe. (Image courtesy of PRODRONE.)
The PRODRONE PD6-CI-L and its characteristic L-shaped airframe. (Image courtesy of PRODRONE.)
Just when you think you know what a drone is, a new model comes along that forces you to reimagine the whole concept. PRODRONE’s latest offering, dubbed the PD6-CI-L, is the latest example. This drone doesn’t just fly – it clings.

Inspecting Infrastructure at the Surface

The PD6-CI-L differs from other drones in its L-shaped airframe. The L-shape serves a dual purpose: it allows the drone to cling to either a horizontal surface, such as a ceiling, or a vertical surface, like a wall.

Using negative pressure, the drone clings to surfaces directly rather than merely hovering above them. It’s relatively lightweight, with the airframe weighing in at 6 kg, and fairly small, with a total height of 720 mm. Using 6 independently-driven wheels for self-propulsion, it’s able to freely crawl along surfaces at a speed of up to 5 km/h.

All this makes the PD6-CI-L well-suited to inspecting civil infrastructure such as bridges. When equipped with a camera, the drone can detect cracks as small as 0.1 mm in width. This is because the clinging capability of the drone allows it to maintain a constant focal distance from the surface under inspection.

The PD6-CI-L has the potential to outperform traditional drones in the task of bridge inspection. Weather conditions like powerful wind gusts can make it difficult for hovering drones to complete an inspection, whereas a surface-clinging drone is more resilient. The technology will hopefully go a long way towards completing the 700,000 required road bridge inspections in PRODRONE’s native Japan.

To learn about another PRODRONE model with a unique feature, check out Drones Get Hands-On with Robotic Arm Technology. For more drone news, read DJI Opens Drone Arena in South Korea.

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