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Title:
VESSEL INSPECTION SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/018075
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A vessel inspection system is provided comprising a scanner, for scanning a hull of a vessel; and an articulable arm, coupled to the scanner. The articulable arm is configured to move the scanner along the hull.

Inventors:
FOSTER, Darren James (C/- Level 32, 239 George StreetBrisbane, Queensland 4000, 4000, AU)
Application Number:
AU2017/050762
Publication Date:
February 01, 2018
Filing Date:
July 25, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
HEGEL INDUSTRIAL SOLUTIONS PTY LTD (C/- Level 32, 239 George StreetBrisbane, Queensland 4000, 4000, AU)
International Classes:
B62D55/00; B25J5/00; B63B59/00; G01N17/00
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CULLENS PTY LTD (Level 32, 239 George StreetBrisbane, Queensland 4000, 4000, AU)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A vessel inspection system comprising: a scanner, for scanning a hull of a vessel; and an articulable arm, coupled to the scanner, wherein the articulable arm is configured to move the scanner along the hull.

2. The system of claim 1, configured to inspect the vessel while the vessel is out of the water.

3. The system of claim 1, including a transport module, configured to transport the vessel inspection system from one area to another area.

4. The system of claim 3, wherein the transport module is self propelled.

5. The system of claim 3, wherein the transport module is configured to move along the ground adjacent to the vessel.

6. The system of claim 3, wherein the transport module includes tracks, for transporting the system.

7. The system of claim 6, wherein the tracks are positioned on opposing sides of the transport module.

8. The system of claim 3, wherein the transport module includes wheels, for transporting the system.

9. The system of claim 6 or claim 8, wherein the transport module includes a motor, for driving the tracks or the wheels.

10. The system of claim 1, configured to automatically inspect a hull of the vessel.

11. The system of claim 1, configured to semi-automatically inspect the hull of the vessel.

12. The system of claim 1, configured to transport the vessel inspection system to a first area, and inspect a first portion of the hull of the vessel adjacent to the first area, and subsequently transport the vessel inspection system to a second area, and inspect a second portion of the hull of the vessel adjacent to the second area.

13. The system of claim 1, wherein the scanner is configured to determine a density of at least a portion of the hull.

14. The system of claim 1, wherein the scanner is configured to detect the presence of moisture in at least a portion of the hull.

15. The system of claim 1, wherein the arm comprises at least two arm portions pivotally attached.

16. The system of claim 1, wherein actuators are provided to control movement of the arm.

17. The system of claim 1, wherein the articulable arm is configured to move the scanner along the hull in a predefined pattern.

18. The system of claim 1, wherein the scanner comprises a plurality of sensors.

19. The system of claim 17, wherein the sensors comprise non-destructive testing ( DT) sensors.

20. The system of claim 1, wherein the scanner comprises a surface scanner, and one or more sensors configured to capture data relating to behind a surface of the hull.

21. The system of claim 20, wherein the surface scanner comprises a laser scanner, configured to generate a plurality of point measurements of the hull.

22. The system of claim 20, wherein the surface scanner may comprise a camera configured to capture images of the hull.

23. The system of claim 22, wherein the camera is configured to operate in the visible spectrum.

24. The system of claim 22, wherein the camera is configured to operate in the infrared spectrum.

25. The system of claim 20, wherein the sensors include a microwave sensor.

26. The system of claim 20, wherein the sensors include an ultrasonic sensor.

27. The system of claim 20, wherein the scanner includes spacers, for spacing the sensors from the hull.

28. The system of claim 27, wherein the spacers comprise wheels, enabling smooth transport across hull.

29. The system of claim 28, configured to generate a three-dimensional model of the hull based upon a plurality of surface measurements, and overlay sensor data on the three- dimensional model.

30. The system of claim 1, further including an assessment module, configured to analyse the sensor data for problems, or potential problems, in the hull.

31. The system of claim 30, wherein the assessment module is configured to apply thresholds to the sensor data.

32. The system of claim 31, wherein the thresholds are static.

33. The system of claim 31, wherein the thresholds are dynamic.

34. The system of claim 1, configured to generate a report, including sensor data from the scanner, or a subset thereof.

35. The system of claim 34, wherein the report may include an assessment of an assessment module.

36. The system of claim 34, wherein the report includes a three dimensional model of the vessel.

37. The system of claim 36, wherein the report is customisable such that a user is able to selectively configure which data is overlaid onto the 3D model in the report.

38. The system of claim 1, configured to output the surface and sensor data for offline analysis by a structural engineer or other suitably qualified person.

39. The system of claim 1, configured to perform an initial characterisation of the vessel, and subsequently detailed inspection of portions of the vessel independently.

Description:
VESSEL INSPECTION SYSTEM

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates to inspection of vessels, and in particular, although not exclusively, to inspection of fibreglass and timber recreational boats.

BACKGROUND ART

[0002] Many fibreglass boats have a support structure that is constructed of timber or plywood. In particular, timber or plywood stringers generally extend along the hull, to provide support to the hull. These timber or plywood stringers are generally encased by fiberglass, which prevents water from reaching the stringers.

[0003] However, over time, water may find its way to the stringers, e.g. through small holes, cracks or other damage to the fiberglass surrounding the stringers, which can cause the stringers to rot. Rotting stringers may eventually lead to loss of structural integrity of the boat, and if untreated, eventual disintegration of the vessel. Often these defects are hard to see until they have become quite pronounced, but may also be completely hidden and unable to be identified until a major structural failure has taken place.

[0004] Similar problems exist in other areas of boats, such as the transom, which is also often constructed of timber or plywood, and coated in fibreglass or other material. Similarly, in other types of boats, such as timber boats, the structure of the boat may be prone to rotting, even when not visible from an external visual inspection.

[0005] Fibreglass boats may also, over time, allow water to be transported through the hull by osmosis. This water may damage a surface of the hull, in that blisters appear on a surface of the hull, but may also cause structural damage, as described above.

[0006] Manual inspection is typically performed on boats in an attempt to identify rotting or damage, or symptoms thereof. In particular, a moisture meter may be used to measure moisture in a hull of a boat, to obtain an indication of how much moisture has been absorbed by the hull, and the inspector may tap on parts of the hull, listening for hollow areas or inconsistencies.

[0007] A problem with inspecting a boat using a moisture meter is that the readings can be misleading, and may not provide a good indication of the condition of the hull. A problem with listening for hollow areas in the hull is that it is highly subjective, and as such results are not generally comparable. Furthermore, the quality of these results are highly dependent on the inspector's experience.

[0008] As such, there is clearly a need for an improved vessel inspection system.

[0009] It will be clearly understood that, if a prior art publication is referred to herein, this reference does not constitute an admission that the publication forms part of the common general knowledge in the art in Australia or in any other country.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0010] The present invention is directed to vessel inspection systems and methods, which may at least partially overcome at least one of the abovementioned disadvantages or provide the consumer with a useful or commercial choice.

[0011] With the foregoing in view, the present invention in one form, resides broadly in a vessel inspection system comprising:

a scanner, for scanning a hull of a vessel; and

an articulable arm, coupled to the scanner, wherein the articulable arm is configured to move the scanner along the hull.

[0012] The vessel inspection system enables structural inspection of recreational vessels, such as boats, to identify defects, such as construction defects, repair-related defects, age-related damage, wet rot, dry rot, and osmosis-related damage.

[0013] Preferably, the system is configured to inspect the vessel while the vessel is out of the water.

[0014] Preferably, the system includes a transport module, configured to transport the vessel inspection system from one area to another area. Preferably, the transport module is self propelled.

[0015] The transport module may be configured to move along the ground adjacent to the vessel.

[0016] The transport module may include tracks, for transporting the system. The tracks may be positioned on opposing sides of the transport module.

[0017] Alternatively, the transport module may include wheels, for transporting the system.

[0018] The transport module may include a motor, for driving tracks or wheels. [0019] The system may be configured to automatically inspect a hull of a vessel.

Alternatively, the system may be semi -automatically configured to inspect the hull of the vessel.

[0020] The system may be configured to transport the vessel inspection system to a first area, and inspect a first portion of the hull of the vessel adjacent to the first area, and

subsequently transport the vessel inspection system to a second area, and inspect a second portion of the hull of the vessel adjacent to the second area

[0021] The scanner may be configured to determine a density of at least a portion of the hull. The scanner may be configured to detect the presence of moisture in at least a portion of the hull.

[0022] The arm may comprise at least two arm portions pivotally attached. Actuators may be provided to control movement of the arm.

[0023] Preferably, the articulable arm is configured to move the scanner along the hull in a predefined pattern.

[0024] The scanner may comprise a plurality of sensors. The sensors may comprise nondestructive testing ( DT) sensors.

[0025] The scanner may comprise a surface scanner, and one or more sensors configured to capture data relating to behind a surface of the hull.

[0026] The surface scanner may comprise a laser scanner, configured to generate a plurality of point measurements of the hull.

[0027] The surface scanner may comprise a camera configured to capture images of the hull. The camera may be configured to operate in the visible spectrum. Alternatively or additionally, the camera may be configured to operate in the infrared spectrum.

[0028] The sensors may include a microwave sensor. The sensors may include an ultrasonic sensor.

[0029] The scanner may include spacers, for spacing the sensors from the hull. The spacers may comprise wheels, enabling smooth transport across hull.

[0030] The system may be configured to generate a three-dimensional model of the hull based upon a plurality of surface measurements, and overlay sensor data on the three- dimensional model. [0031] The system may include an assessment module, configured to analyse the sensor data for problems, or potential problems, in the hull. The assessment module may be configured to apply thresholds to the sensor data. The thresholds may be static. The thresholds may be dynamic, e.g. based upon vessel size.

[0032] The system may be configured to generate a report, including the sensor data, or a subset thereof. The report may include an assessment of the assessment module.

[0033] The report may include a three dimensional model of the vessel. The report may be customisable, such that the user is able to selectively configure which data is overlaid onto the 3D model.

[0034] The system may be configured to output the surface and sensor data for offline analysis by a structural engineer or other suitably qualified person.

[0035] The system may be configured to perform an initial characterisation of the vessel, and subsequently detailed inspection of portions of the vessel independently.

[0036] Any of the features described herein can be combined in any combination with any one or more of the other features described herein within the scope of the invention.

[0037] The reference to any prior art in this specification is not, and should not be taken as an acknowledgement or any form of suggestion that the prior art forms part of the common general knowledge.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0038] Various embodiments of the invention will be described with reference to the following drawings, in which:

[0039] Figure 1 illustrates a perspective view of a vessel inspection system, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

[0040] Figure 2 illustrates a front view of an inspection head of the vessel inspection system of Figure 1, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

[0041] Figure 3 illustrates a bottom view of an inspection head of the vessel inspection system of Figure 1, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

[0042] Figure 4 illustrates a perspective front view of the vessel inspection system of Figure 1 with reference to a vessel, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

[0043] Figure 5 illustrates a perspective view of a vessel inspection system, according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention;

[0044] Figure 6 illustrates a schematic of a vessel inspection system, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0045] Preferred features, embodiments and variations of the invention may be discerned from the following Detailed Description which provides sufficient information for those skilled in the art to perform the invention. The Detailed Description is not to be regarded as limiting the scope of the preceding Summary of the Invention in any way.

DESCRIPTION OF EMB ODEVIENT S

[0046] Figure 1 illustrates a vessel inspection system 100, according to an embodiment of the present invention. The vessel inspection system 100 is configured to automatically inspect a hull of a vessel, such as a fibreglass boat, for damage, particularly structural damage that may not be readily visible to the naked eye.

[0047] As outlined in further detail below, the inspection system 100 may be configured to detect inconsistencies in density of construction materials in the hull, such as stringers, the presence of repaired material, and/or the presence of moisture in the hull structure.

[0048] The vessel inspection system 100 includes a transport component 105 in the form of a vehicle, and an inspection module 110 coupled to the transport component 105 by an arm 115. The transport component 105 is configured to transport the system 100, and thus the inspection module 110, to a desired location.

[0049] The transport component 105 includes a body 120 and first and second tracks 125, on opposing sides of the body 120, which enable the transport component 105 to move along a ground surface to a vessel for inspection, as well as between various parts of the vessel. The body includes a motor, for driving the tracks, wherein each of the tracks 125 is operable independently, to enable the transport component 105, and thus the inspection system 100, to turn and move into any desired position.

[0050] The skilled addressee will, however, readily appreciate that the transport component 105 may utilise wheels, or any other means of enabling the system 100 to be transported. [0051] The arm 115 comprises a first arm portion 115a and a second arm portion 115b. The first arm portion 115a is pivotally attached to the transport component 105, and the second arm portion 115b is pivotally attached to the first arm portion 115a.

[0052] Actuators (not illustrated) are provided to enable controlled movement of the first arm portion 115a relative to the transport component 105, and the second arm portion 115b relative to the first arm portion 115a. This enables the arm 115 to extend such that the inspection module 110 may be positioned above, or diagonally above, or beside the transport component

[0053] The inspection head 110 is configured to be positioned directly against a hull of the vessel for inspection thereof. As best illustrated in Figure 2 and Figure 3, the inspection head includes a plurality of wheels 130, which are configured to roll along the hull as the inspection head moves along the hull inspecting various parts of the hull.

[0054] The wheels 130 ensure that a constant distance or spacing is provided between the inspection head 110 and the hull, which enables accurate measurement of data, and prevents other parts of the inspection head 110 from accidently contacting the hull and causing damage thereto.

[0055] The inspection head 110 includes a plurality of sensors, for inspecting the hull, including a laser scanner 135, a camera 140, a microwave sensor 145, and an ultrasonic sensor 150.

[0056] The laser scanner 135 is configured to generate a plurality of point measurements of the hull. The laser scanner 135 is advantageously a sub-millimetre laser scanner, to enable the detection of small cracks, surface damage and/or other small defects in the surface of the hull.

[0057] The camera 140 is configured to capture images, or record video of the hull as it is being inspected. The images may be used to identify visual defects, through image analysis.

[0058] The skilled addressee will readily appreciate that the camera 140 may operate in the visible spectrum, or outside of the visible spectrum. For example, the camera 140 may comprise an Infrared (IR) Camera, configured to capture infrared data.

[0059] The inspection head 110 further includes a light 155, for illuminating the vessel, or part thereof. The light 155 may be configured to provide a consistent light source, to enable more accurate comparison of photographs from the camera 140, or to provide light of a particular wavelength. In some embodiments, the camera 140 and/or the light 155 may be configured to provide or capture light of various wavelengths at different points of time. For example, the camera 140 and light 155 may be configured to initially provide light and capture data in the visible spectrum, and thus across a several wavelengths, and subsequently provide light and capture data in the IR spectrum, and thus across a specific wavelength.

[0060] The microwave sensor 145 is configured to capture data relating to behind a surface of the hull, such as a structure of the hull, stringers, and the like. In particular, the microwave sensor 145 is configured to emit electromagnetic radiation in the form of a microwave signal, and capture reflected signals from the hull and substructures thereof. Based upon the return signal, properties of the hull, such as density of the hull and damage to the substructure of the hull, may be determined.

[0061] The ultrasonic sensor 150 is also configured to capture data relating to behind a surface of the hull, much like the microwave sensor, but using an ultrasound signal rather than a microwave signal.

[0062] This data from the microwave sensor 145 and the ultrasonic sensor 150 may be used to identify damaged, rotten or waterlogged structures (e.g. through an inconsistent or low density), the presence of water in the hull, and the like. This is particularly advantageous as such damage to the hull may not be visible from a visual inspection, or from the camera 140 or laser scanner 135.

[0063] The point measurements of the hull, provided by the laser scan, may be used together to generate a three dimensional surface model, upon which data from the other sensors is overlaid. This enables the detection of flaws in the hull that may not be readily apparent when viewing sensor data from a single sensor, and as such, provides increased accuracy.

[0064] While certain types of sensors have been described above, the skilled addressee will, however, readily appreciate that the inspection head any combination of sensors, preferably nondestructive testing (NDT) sensors may be used to inspect the hull of the vessel. As an illustrative example, the system may include sensors configured to capture dielectric properties of the hull of the vessel, such as permittivity and conductivity.

[0065] According to certain embodiments, the system 100 includes on or more maintenance and repair tools. For example, the inspection head 110 may include a cleaning tool (e.g. high pressure water gun), to clean a surface of the hull, a paint tool, for painting a surface of the hull, and/or a repair tool, e.g. for repairing a surface of the hull with epoxy or gel. [0066] The body 120 includes an assessment module (not illustrated), which receives the data from the sensors, and automatically analyses (e.g. based upon artificial intelligence) the inspection data. An outcome of the assessment module may be an identification of problems, areas requiring further manual inspection, damage, previous repair, or the like.

[0067] The assessment module may be configured to generate a report, including the inspection data (or a subset thereof), and the assessment. The inspection data is advantageously presented in a 3D model formed with reference to the laser scanner data, with one or more other sensor data values overlaid thereon. In certain embodiments, the report is user customisable, such that the user is able to selectively configure which data is overlaid onto the 3D model.

[0068] The system 100 can alternatively or additionally be used to output the surface and sensor data for offline analysis by a structural engineer or other suitably qualified person. As an illustrative example, the system 100 can output a computer-aided design (CAD) model, for example in a .CAD, .DXF, .IGES, .STEP, or solidworks file. This is particularly advantageous for remote inspections, where the system 100 is used to inspect a vessel in a remote location, and be analysed by an expert at another location.

[0069] The system 100 is configured to autonomously inspect the vessel. In particular, the system 100 is configured to perform an initial characterisation of the vessel, e.g. by capturing an overall image of the vessel, and estimating a size thereof.

[0070] The system 100 may then navigate to an area adjacent to a part of the vessel using the transport component 105. The system 100 configures the inspection module, by articulating the arm 115, to capture data relating to a portion of the hull.

[0071] Figure 4 illustrates the inspection system 100 inspecting a front portion 410 of a hull 405 of a vessel 400. The vessel 400 is raised on hardstands, e.g. in a boat storage yard.

However, the skilled addressee will readily appreciate that the vessel may be raised in any suitable way, including on boat storage stands, racks or the like.

[0072] The system 100 then navigates to an area adjacent to another part of the vessel using the transport component 105, and configures the inspection module to capture data relating to another portion of the hull. Preferably, the system 100 is configured to capture data relating to overlapping portions of the hull, such that the data can ultimately be combined to cover an entire area of the hull.

[0073] The navigation of the system 100 along the vessel is advantageously fully automated, along with automatic capture and transmission of data. However, the skilled addressee will readily appreciate that the inspection may be partially automated (e.g. after an initial manual configuration process), or even manually controlled.

[0074] For example, the system may be configured to move around the vessel in a particular direction, and scan the surface of the hull in a particular predefined pattern (e.g. in rows from top left to bottom right.

[0075] According to certain embodiments, the system includes a display screen (not illustrated), for presenting the sensor data to the user. However, the skilled addressee will readily appreciate that any suitable method of presenting data to the user can be used, including the system being configured to upload the inspection data to a server for visualisation on a website.

[0076] The system 100 may be configured to save data from various inspections, and automatically or manually learn therefrom. For example, data relating to a number of typical damage scenarios and a number of normal scenarios may be entered into the system. As new data is captured, the data may be associated with one or more error scenarios, and thus used in relation to further inspections.

[0077] According to certain embodiments, the system 100 includes a plurality of thresholds, which may be dynamic (e.g. based upon vessel size or other parameters), or static. These thresholds may be used to determine damage in the hull (e.g. a certain value above a particular threshold). According to certain embodiments, the thresholds are updated as data is received.

[0078] Figure 5 illustrates a vessel inspection system 500, according to an embodiment of the present invention. The vessel inspection system 500 is similar to the vehicle inspection system 100, and is configured to automatically inspect a hull of a vessel.

[0079] The vessel inspection system 500 includes a transport component 505, and an inspection module 510 coupled to the transport component 505 by an arm 515, much like the system 100.

[0080] The transport component 505 includes a body 520, which is transported using a plurality of wheels 525, on opposing sides of the body 520. The body 520 includes a motor (not illustrated), for driving the wheels 525.

[0081] The arm 515 comprises a base portion 515a, which is configured to rotate relative to the body 520, an elongate arm portion 515b, which is pivotally attached to the base portion 515a, and a head portion 515c, which is pivotally attached to the elongate arm portion 515b. The inspection module 510 is coupled to the head portion 515c by an extendible arm 510a, which enables the inspection module 510 to extend laterally towards the vessel.

[0082] Figure 6 illustrates a schematic of an inspection module 600, according to an embodiment of the present invention. The inspection module 600 may be similar or identical to the inspection module 100 or the inspection module 500.

[0083] The inspection module 600 includes a processor 605, a memory 610 coupled to the processor 605, and a data interface 615 coupled to the processor 605. Sensors 620 are also coupled to the processor, as are tracks 625, an arm 630, an analysis module 635, a report generation module 640 and a data storage module 645.

[0084] The memory 610 includes instruction code executable by the processor 605 for capturing data of a vessel using the sensors 620. In particular, the instruction code includes code for controlling the tracks 625, such that the inspection module 600 is positioned against the vessel, and code for controlling the arm 630 such that the sensors 620 navigate along the hull capturing data thereof.

[0085] As the data is captured, it is stored in the data storage module 645, and analysed by the analysis module 635, for flaws, damage, or water in the hull, as outlined above.

[0086] Upon completion of the inspection, a report is generated by the report generation module 640. The report may be saved on the data storage 645, together with the sensor data, or transmitted to the user using the data interface 615.

[0087] Embodiments of the present invention provide a simple, reliable, reproducible, and cost effective way of inspecting vessels, such as boats. In particular, problems such as internal rotting, waterlogging and the like may be found in the hull, while not necessarily being visible externally. This enables problems to be identified and repaired at an early stage, which may prevent catastrophic hull damage.

[0088] In the present specification and claims (if any), the word 'comprising' and its derivatives including 'comprises' and 'comprise' include each of the stated integers but does not exclude the inclusion of one or more further integers.

[0089] Reference throughout this specification to 'one embodiment' or 'an embodiment' means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, the appearance of the phrases 'in one embodiment' or 'in an embodiment' in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment.

Furthermore, the particular features, structures, or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner in one or more combinations.

[0090] In compliance with the statute, the invention has been described in language more or less specific to structural or methodical features. It is to be understood that the invention is not limited to specific features shown or described since the means herein described comprises preferred forms of putting the invention into effect. The invention is, therefore, claimed in any of its forms or modifications within the proper scope of the appended claims (if any) appropriately interpreted by those skilled in the art.