Autonomous or Remotely-Operated Maintenance of Ships' Tanks
Navy SBIR FY2014.1

Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2014.1
Topic No.: N141-042
Topic Title: Autonomous or Remotely-Operated Maintenance of Ships' Tanks
Proposal No.: N141-042-0003
120 Newsome Drive
Suite A
Yorktown, Virginia 23692
Contact: O. Ohanian
Phone: (540) 961-0067
Web Site:
Abstract: Autonomous and remotely operated maintenance of complex Navy ship tanks represents a significant challenge in robotics. To solve this problem, AVID LLC is teaming with Carnegie Mellon and Virginia Tech to address this challenge using an air-ground team of robots. AVID's small 8" EDF-8 ducted fan hovering robot was designed to fly through 15" tank portholes and carry up to 1 lb of payload. This air robot will perform rapid tank inspections using VT's 3D mapping of the structure with detailed location data for areas needing maintenance. This data will be used for path planning of CMU's snake robots that are designed for operations in confined spaces. The ground robot's movements within the tank will be minimized while still accomplishing the objective of the necessary industrial processes (painting, sanding, welding). Since ground mobility within complex tank structures is the largest risk to mission success, the rapid inspection and mapping from the aerial platform will save time, mitigate risks, and provide a more reliable overall solution. In the end, robotic maintenance of ship voids and ballast/fuel tanks will greatly reduce the risk to human life with the potential of reducing costs in the long term.
Benefits: AVID has been in ongoing conversations with commercial entities since our interest in ship tank inspections began two years ago. They are interested in this technology for improving their operations for inspecting and servicing the ships that they manufacture and maintain. They see the potential value from both a revenue and safety/liability standpoint. In particular, there is an interest in adapting our tank inspection and maintenance to nuclear applications where human safety is of highest concern. We have begun exploring what adaptations to our vehicle would be necessary to operate in these types of environments. Through our conversations with them, it has become apparent that there is little/no competition for providing this kind of technology or service within the market. Consequently, this represents a great opportunity for commercialization. The flight vehicle element of the robot team approach has commercialization opportunities as an independent vehicle. Several that AVID has investigated include indoor reconnaissance for Police/SWAT Teams, indoor inspections for construction, indoor inspections for damaged buildings, outdoor flight for elevated perspective (Fire, Police, Search & Rescue, News Media), outdoor flight for difficult inspections (bridge structures, electrical transmission towers, cell towers, windmill farms), outdoor flight for precision agriculture, and other applications that emerge through the on-going sales and marketing campaign. Likewise, the ground-based snake robot has commercialization opportunities in inspecting confined spaces that are difficult for other robots to reach. The snake robots can travel through pipes as small as 4" diameter. There are numerous inspection missions in confined spaces that could benefit from this capability.