A large number of people, companies and organisations have contributed to the PIRATE project so far. On this page a small outline of the history and involvement so far.
In the summer of 2006 the laboratory for Control Engineering of University of Twente was approached by Kees Pulles of KIWA to collaborate on a challenging design project: developing an autonomous robot for inspection of the small diameter (un-piggable) gas distribution mains in the Dutch network. A team was formed consisting of Kees Pulles and Mannes Wolters of KIWA, Stefano Stramigioli and Edwin Dertien of University of Twente, Rob Nispeling and Hans van der Vegt of Continuon (now alliander) and HenkJan van der Pol of DEMCON.
After a number of brainstorm sessions hosted in the TXchange lab, a number of initial requirements were drafted and the project started at DEMCON with the MSc. project of Jeroen Vennegoor op Nijhuis. He was later joined by Jos Ansink, working as an intern on the motor control hardware and Edwin Dertien in charge of the system specifications and control electronics.
In the final phase of Jeroen’s assignment the design files were frozen and adapted for construction by Jan Leideman. The manufacturing of the parts (which required CNC manufacturing) was outsourced. Assembly at DEMCON was done by Eric Jan (later working for parts&tools). The assembled mechanics and the electronics were brought to the Control Engineering lab at the University for further development.
Ph.D student Gijs van Oort finalized a control interface (GUI) in Matlab for the embedded control system which was further developed by Edwin Dertien. Electronics were integrated with the mechanical system so MSc students Harm de Boer could perform a number of basic tests and characterizations of the developed hardware. The control setup was further developed by MSc. student Harwin Reemeijer, who first succeeded in letting the robot take a sharp (mitered bend) in a 80 mm pipe.
In 2008 Edwin Dertien started as Ph.D student on the development of the inspection robot, working part-time as lecturer for the Creative Technology program, proposed by Job van Amerongen.
Based on their findings a number of improvements were pointed out. At DEMCON intern Systse Spijksma continued with a re-design of the bending module, at the UT BSc student Bram Burkink worked at the design of an in-wheel drive system. MSc. student Eric Drost made a start with the design of an active vision system using a circular laser projector and camera.
After the first successful cornering manoeuvre (proving partially the validity of the chosen concept) a second phase of the project was initiated by Kees Pulles, involving gas distribution network operators Liander, Enexis, Endinet and Cogas.
MSc student Twan Mennink continued working on the control part and image processing, realizing an implementation of the SLAM algorithm (simultaneously localization and mapping) on a camera probe combining Drost’s vision system and an Xsens IMU. Corne Doggen continued the development of the control electronics, realizing a system for wireless state-feedback (3d visualization based on robot state data) leading to rudimentary world modeling. Saxion intern Maarten Brilman continued working on the vision system, realising a scaled down version of the algorithm suitable for running on an embedded (overo gumstix) target.
A 3D printer (Objet Eden 250) obtained by the lab for rapid prototyping led to a dramatic change in development (cycle, speed). MSc. student Dian Borgerink worked on the assignment to design an build a robot completely produced on the 3D printer. Although some additional mechanical parts were necessary (springs, bearings, gears) the production of (multiple) iterations of the robot hardware was greatly facilitated by the use of the printer.
MSc student Mark Reiling continued working on the integration of the vision system with the robot, leading to the most compact incarnation of the camera – projector system since (with an impressive 3D printed flexture system for mirror calibration).
In 2012 ALSTOM Inspection Robotics expressed their interest in the project. Their goal is to develop a system for inspection of (steam) pipes of power plants, down to 2” diameter. Postdoc Mohammad Mozaffari Foumashi (Ph.D.) started working in 2013 on a branch of the pirate design for their targeted environment.
In 2014 Edwin Dertien successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis on the “design of an inspection robot for small diameter gas distribution mains”. Currently the robot is being prepared by Mark Reiling to do a successful launch in a test network.