Comau and Leonardo join on automated inspection robots

26th February 2024
Kristian McCann

Comau and Leonardo have embarked on a collaboration to harness cognitive robotics in developing an advanced, automated inspection system for critical aeronautical structures. 

This innovative venture aims to autonomously inspect helicopter blades up to seven metres in length, enhancing quality and flexibility without compromising precision or repeatability.

The smart robot developed by Comau is capable of perceiving its environment, making calculated decisions, and intuitively optimising the entire inspection process from start to finish. Announced on 26th February 2024 in Grugliasco (Turin), this initiative marks a significant step forward in automating complex processes within the aerospace industry. Traditionally, tasks such as inspecting helicopter blades for structural integrity were performed manually. However, the introduction of robotic inspection offers unparalleled accuracy and efficiency, ensuring standardisation and full compliance with testing protocols.

The joint pilot project between Comau and Leonardo has been under testing over the past year in Anagni, Italy, demonstrating the potential to revolutionise Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) services. By integrating cognitive robotics, advanced vision systems, and artificial intelligence, the solution autonomously conducts tapping tests and multispectral surface inspections across the non-linear blade. This method verifies structural integrity with exceptional detail, covering thousands of points to ensure 100% accuracy within the self-adaptive process.

This technological collaboration allows for the sharing of specific expertise to refine the inspection process further. Intelligent algorithms and advanced path planning enable the robot to navigate and respond to its surroundings effectively, while a comprehensive data acquisition and processing infrastructure supports optimised sound and image recognition. The system's ability to automatically sense its environment, localise the blade, detect obstacles, and calculate an optimised, collision-free path underscores the sophistication of this solution.

A key feature of this approach is its simplicity for the operator, facilitated by a user-friendly interface based on low-code programming. Operators can easily program the robot with straightforward commands, shifting their role from performing repetitive tasks to utilising their experience in overseeing the standardised process.

This collaboration between Comau and Leonardo not only demonstrates the potential of intelligent automation in simplifying complex processes but also highlights the benefits of such technology in critical sectors like aerospace. Nicole Clement, Chief of Comau Advanced Automation Solutions Business Unit, emphasised the importance of cutting-edge technologies in extending the advantages of advanced automation to mission-critical applications. Mattia Cavanna, Head of Technology & Innovation at Leonardo Helicopters, echoed this sentiment, underlining the project's alignment with Leonardo's strategy to digitise industrial processes, thereby enhancing safety and quality.

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