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11 May 2017

Since the beginning of Opus’ research partnership with Nottingham Trent University and Innovate UK last September, ‘RustScan’ and ‘RustDetect’ – a system that will be able to detect structural corrosion from up to 100m away – has been gaining momentum.

As we reach the six month mark, big strides are being made in the development of three rust detection systems. The appointment of a full-time research associate, Dr Ali Sohaib, to focus on instrumentation and data capture has seen initial developments made in a long-range ground based system known as PRISMS (portable remote imaging system for multispectral scanning), which is able to detect and classify different types of rust.

This has led to the prototype for the handheld camera system which will have the added ability of being fitted to UAVs for inaccessible and potentially dangerous inspections.  It is small, lightweight and has low power consumption meaning that it can continuously capture data for close to an hour before requiring recharging.

The next stage will see the handheld system undergo field testing with inspection engineers and surveyors collecting “control” data from real structures on site and providing technical and observational commentary to ensure a level of accuracy for the results found.

The ability to perform remote simultaneous 3D and spectral imaging to provide real-time rapid condition monitoring has so far been of wide interest to the industry with companies from the rail, defence and energy sectors approaching the research project to find out how this technology can impact the Whole of Life asset lifecycle.

This technology has the potential to hugely impact the way companies are managing and maintaining their assets, not only by optimising their performance and maintenance but by allowing for intervention earlier on in the asset lifecycle by collecting better data.

Meeting with the industry is also of benefit to the research group who can begin to understand the problems currently incurred when monitoring asset condition. As such, the need for an endoscopic tool has been highlighted, which would provide a clear and detailed data set compared to current methods such as ultrasound, which simply takes metal thickness measurements to determine internal corrosion and is prone to interference when used on blistered surfaces. Development of this tool is due to begin this summer.

The second phase of the research project will begin shortly after the appointment of an additional research associate to develop the accompanying ‘RustDetect’ software which will process and interpret the data captured by the ‘RustScan’ instruments.