Telexistence provides a means to complete maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) activities remotely that have the risk of causing physical injury and harm to the maintainer, or the by the same method, exceed the normal human capabilities of the individual with physical augmentation able to deal with increased loads without additional human manpower. Combined with non-destructive testing (NDT) methods, this research seeks to develop novel methods for state-of-the-art remote virtual reality simulation for digital-twin robotic avatars.
Cranfield University, Grenoble University and dstl are seeking a top class candidate to undertake research leading to PhD awarded.
This opportunity also provides a substantial tax free stipend (between £18k-£20k) equivalent to many graduate jobs. This project brings together Cranfield and Grenoble Universities in the UK and France respectively with funding from dstl. This exciting research seeks to address the challenge faced by many MRO organisations who are constrained operationally by the availability of Non-disruptive testing (NDT) expertise within their process function. Scheduling delays and cost overruns are some of the potential risks faced due to the high-demand for NDT inspection of high-value assets. With deployment of an NDT-MRO robotic fleet, the constraints on the availability of NDT expertise are released and subsequently enable the development of automation of required inspection procedures. Using the proposed state-of-the-art remote telexistence simulation suite developed by this project, the next-generation NDT engineer can oversee and intervene for the entire multi-site vehicle fleet.
Owing to bespoke capabilities of NDT-MRO robotics for corresponding vehicle assets, the project will develop an adaptive configuration for responsive visualisation in the remote virtual reality simulation suite. A novel wizard-of-oz-type task control interface will be developed to provide an effective and efficient means to actuate the full NDT inspection processes. The project will select an appropriate use case study at Cranfield and Grenoble for the creation of an experimental prototype system to test and validate the proposed concept for NDT-MRO telexistence. The work will be supported by our skills and expertise in non-destructive testing, virtual-reality, visualisation and immersion.
The work will include a necessary exploration of the state-of-the-art in remote sensing and feedback reflection systems that will comprise in a fully operational telexistence implementation of an NDT-MRO robotic system. The research will evaluate both commercial-off-the-shelf systems and bespoke solutions, making consideration of criteria such as type, nature and appropriate capability. Real-time communication methods, protocols and transports will be evaluated alongside various interfaces between with the heterogeneous components that exist in the proposed system. Close collaboration with component manufacturers and suppliers will be necessary to ensure compliance with agreed standards. Testing of cyber resilience and employment of current security practices will be necessary to ensure effective deployment in a multiple threat landscape.
The researcher is expected advance their multi-disciplinary skills for software development; visualisation design; test design; knowledge capture; project management; technical document writing and client management and will contribute significantly to the research output for the centre.
The work will make use of existing facilities available within Cranfield and Grenoble. This includes (but is not limited to): Fanuc industrial robot; FLIR thermal cameras; Haption force-feedback input device; HTC Vive ProEye VR headset; high-definition display devices; IoT sensors; MEMS hardware design; bespoke design and manufacture rapid-prototyping services. The researcher will receive training for each resource as part of the laboratory induction and is expected to work independently for the duration of the project.
At Cranfield, the candidate will be based at the Through-life Engineering Services Centre, which hosts cutting-edge simulation and visualisation facilities. There will also be regular visits to Grenoble to conduct further collaborative research. The student will have access to high-end computers to conduct the research. There will be relevant visits to various sites of dstl throughout the PhD to develop and demonstrate the research.
UK and French nationals are eligible for the project.