The Turku Intelligent Embedded and Robotic Systems (TIERS) and the Biomimetics and Intelligent Systems Group (BISG) research groups conduct fundamental research in many different areas including collaboration and long-term autonomy of aerial robotics, advanced aerial autonomy and ground-to-air coordination approaches. Together, TIERS (University of Turku) and BISG (University of Oulu) have received collaborative funding from the Academy of Finland for the projects RoboMesh (2021-2023) and AeroPolis (2022-2024). This article briefly introduces these projects and also those of AutoSOS (Academy of Finland) and HYFLIER (EU-H2020).
HYFLIERS Project: HYbrid FLying-rollIng with-snakE-aRm robot for contact inSpection
In oil and gas production plants, components are often subject to degradation caused by exposure to the environment or products within the production process. Excessive pipe corrosion may lead to accidents, including catastrophic failures with explosions and release of toxic products, impacting safety, environment and availability of the plant. Inspection processes for thickness measurements ensure that plants are in a safe operating condition or provide alerts to execute necessary corrective actions. These measurements are traditionally executed by personnel that require access to specific locations. Typically, more than 50% (and up to 90%) of these activities are carried out by working at elevated locations with the use of ladders, scaffold, rope access or cranes, and sometimes in the presence of high temperatures or toxic materials. Obviously, this causes considerable costs for ensuring safety of inspection personnel but in some cases, casualties may occur. Moreover, anxiety and exposure to dangerous locations affects concentration and can lead to human errors.
Hybrid Robot with Arm (HRA) prototype. Photo credits: HYFLIERS consortium
HYFLIERS (HYbrid FLying-rollIng with-snakE-aRm robot for contact inSpection) is a research and innovation action of EU Horizon 2020 programme for advanced robot capabilities research and take-up, coordinated by the University of Oulu and worth 3,9-million-euro funding. HYFLIERS develops the world’s first industrial integrated robot with hybrid air and ground mobility with a long-reach hyper-redundant manipulator capable of reaching sites where no other robot can access, reducing the exposition of human inspectors to potentially dangerous working conditions. The project targeted ultrasonic thickness measurements for oil and gas refineries and chemical plants, but the results could be applied to many other robotic inspection technologies.
Visit the project website for featured publications, https://www.oulu.fi/hyfliers/#results
AutoSOS project: designing Autonomous Drones Supporting Maritime Search and Rescue
Rescue vessels are the main actors in maritime safety and rescue operations. Aerial drones bring a significant advantage to this scenario. AutoSOS is funded by the Academy of Finland and led by the University of Turku. The project develops an autonomous multi-robot search and rescue assistance platform capable of sensor fusion and object detection in embedded devices using novel lightweight AI models. The platform performs reconnaissance missions for the initial assessment of the environment using novel adaptive deep learning algorithms that efficiently use the available sensors and computational resources on drones and rescue vessels.
Photo credits: AutoSOS consortium
When drones find potential objects, they send their sensor data to the vessel to verify the findings with increased accuracy. The actual rescue and treatment operation is left as the responsibility of the rescue personnel. The drones autonomously reconfigure their spatial distribution to enable multi-hop communication when a direct connection between a drone transmitting information and the vessel is unavailable.
To know more about the project and related publications visit: https://tiers.utu.fi/project/autosos
RoboMesh project: distributed Ledger Technologies for Industrial Robot Collaboration
The robotisation of industry is one of the key drivers behind the Industry 4.0 revolution. Collaborative robots are becoming a reality across the manufacturing industry, autonomous robots are already a key asset in the logistics sector, and UAVs are being used for inspection and monitoring in diverse domains. Ubiquitous robots with augmented connectivity are merging into the industrial Internet of Things, enabling higher degrees of intelligence through computational offloading. RoboMesh project – funded by the Academy of Finland – delves into the design and development of a framework for collaboration and long-term autonomy in distributed and heterogeneous multi-robot systems based on a Beyond-5G wireless mesh network with built-in distributed ledger technology. This framework involves data sharing, collaborative decision making, and dynamic and adaptive computational offloading, while it serves as the basis for interaction between robots and infrastructure with collaborative sensing and multi-modal sensor fusion approaches. The University of Turku and the University of Oulu jointly lead the international project consortium.
To read the latest project publications visit: https://tiers.utu.fi/project/robomesh
TIERS-BISG-Robomesh-project-experiment. Photo credits: RoboMesh / University of Turku
AeroPolis project: towards sustainable and autonomous aerial ecosystems in smart cities
Solving the challenges of future transportation requires a solid understanding of the megatrends in urbanization, digitalisation, and energy. Automated vehicles in particular create new zero-carbon services when combined with renewable energy and urban design, and attractive opportunities are found in the development of autonomous aerial vehicles addressing greener last-mile delivery services. Several challenges in this sector are also shared throughout other fields, ideally making the related automation and energy solutions universal. AeroPolis proposes a new take on the aerial logistics ecosystem by defining how autonomous urban-embedded micro-airports and open logistics-ready drones can redefine and advance the current technological possibilities. This is then combined with a digital platform that leverages distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), advanced aerial autonomy and ground-to-air coordination approaches, and integrated hybrid renewable solar+fuel cell energy solutions.
Photo credits: AeroPolis consortium
AeroPolis is a project funded by the Academy of Finland and brings together four Finnish universities: Tampere, Turku, Oulu and Aalto. More information on this Finnish national project, including recent publications, can be found in https://tiers.utu.fi/project/aeropolis
Authors: Tomi Westerlund and Juha Röning.
Header photo credits: TIERS – University of Turku
About Turku Intelligent Embedded and Robotic Systems
The Turku Intelligent Embedded and Robotic Systems (TIERS) research group was established at the University of Turku in 2018 with the objective of initiating a new research at the intersection of autonomous robots, distributed systems, and edge computing. These areas build together towards robust and resilient collaborative multi-robot systems. TIERS is a highly international and growing research group with over 10 nationalities. It is led by Associate Professor Tomi Westerlund together with Researcher Jorge Peña Queralta. The research group has currently in total five senior researchers and 18 researchers. For further information, visit https://tiers.utu.fi .
TIERS is located in the Faculty of Technology at the University of Turku. The Faculty of Technology is the university’s newest faculty, and it began operating at the start of 2021. The Faculty of Technology carries out research in four disciplines: Biotechnology, Computing, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Engineering.
The University of Turku (https://www.utu.fi/en ) is an inspiring and international academic community of 20,000 students and 3400 staff members located in Turku, the oldest city in Finland dating back to the 13th century. The University’s multidisciplinary research and high-quality education have shaped Finnish society already for one hundred years and now we aim to create solutions to global and future challenges.
About Biomimetics and Intelligent Systems Group
The Biomimetics and Intelligent Systems Group (BISG), led by Professor Juha Röning, conducts internationally acknowledged multidisciplinary research in the areas of Data Analysis, Robotics, Secure Programming, and Bio-IT. The application areas of research include optimisation of industrial manufacturing processes, industry 4.0, health and wellbeing systems, environmental monitoring with mobile robots, dependable Internet of Things (IoT), and seamless artificial-natural systems.
BISG is located in the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (ITEE) which provides an environment for an enhanced co-operation between the degree programmes and research units of the ICT field.
The University of Oulu (https://www.oulu.fi/en ) is an international science university which creates new knowledge, well-being and innovations for the future through research and education. Founded in 1958 and located in the city of Oulu, it is one of the largest and most multidisciplinary universities in Finland. The university has around 13,000 students and 2,900 staff, and it is ranked one of the best universities in Finland, being in the top 400 worldwide.