Pennsylvania Patent of the Month – August 2023

When it comes to inspecting hard-to-reach or hazardous environments, innovation is key. Traditional visual inspections often face limitations, especially in situations where direct access is challenging or dangerous. That’s where advanced technologies step in, and Carnegie Robotics is at the forefront of such advancements. Their invention offers a solution that revolutionizes remote inspections, particularly in spaces like underground pipes, where accessibility is a challenge.

The invention centers around a method for obtaining a three-dimensional model of an inspection site, utilizing a perception module equipped with a detection unit. This detection unit comprises multiple cameras that capture three-dimensional images of the surroundings. The remarkable aspect lies in the configuration of these cameras. At least two cameras, each having a distinct detection direction and viewing field, work together to create an overlapping zone. This overlapping zone ensures that certain features are captured from multiple angles, enhancing the three-dimensional modeling accuracy.

One innovative feature is the introduction of non-parallel detection directions among the cameras. This approach not only expands the field of view but also requires sophisticated image transformation techniques to unify the captured images into a coherent three-dimensional representation. This is particularly useful in situations where features are not easily accessible or where there’s a need to cover a larger area effectively.

The process involves capturing images from the cameras, creating a three-dimensional model of the surroundings based on these images, and then comparing this model with a plan of the inspection site. This comparison not only ensures accuracy but also enables the creation of a site-specific three-dimensional model. This model, aligned with the plan of the inspection site, provides a direct link between detected features and their real-world positions, even in challenging environments like underground pipes.

This invention introduces methods to evaluate the quality of the obtained three-dimensional images. By assessing contrast parameters within the overlapping zone of the images captured by different cameras, the system can gauge the consistency and reliability of the captured data. This quality assessment ensures that the resulting three-dimensional model is accurate and dependable.

Carnegie Robotics’ invention addresses a critical need for accurate remote inspections, particularly in scenarios where direct human intervention is difficult or dangerous. This technology not only enhances the efficiency of maintenance and repair operations but also contributes to minimizing inconveniences associated with inaccessible inspection sites. By combining cutting-edge camera configurations, advanced image processing techniques, and accurate modeling, this innovation opens new doors for industries that rely on accurate site assessments and maintenance planning. As technology continues to evolve, solutions like these showcase the immense potential for transforming traditional inspection practices.

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