Multi-robot collaboration for monitoring and inspection of civil engineering structures

Subproject within the DFG Research Unit FOR 5672 ("The information backbone of robotized construction based on multi-scale interlaced product-process modeling methods")

Background and motivation

Monitoring and inspection, bolstered by the advancements in Internet-of-Things technologies, are vital tools for evaluating the performance of construction projects and, in turn, ensure structural safety, save time, and reduce costs. However, when conducted manually, monitoring and inspection tasks are time-consuming, error-prone, and costly. To overcome these drawbacks, deploying robotic systems to automatically execute monitoring and inspection tasks is a promising approach, which requires robust concepts that ensure reliable and efficient multi-robot collaboration. Although multi-robot collaboration has been established in scientific literature, first, existing approaches are usually restricted to robotic systems consisting of single robot types responsible for single tasks. Second, the potential of the semantics inherent to digital building models has been only partially exploited, and bidirectional information exchange between robotic systems and digital building models is currently hardly possible. Third, the uncontrolled on-site environments place challenges to the existing approaches that have been scarcely addressed. However, the state-of-the-art monitoring and inspection logic of restricting robotic systems to single types of robots or to single types of sensor data (structural response data, laser scans, or images) may fall short of addressing construction projects of complex modern civil engineering structures. Furthermore, the semantics provided by digital building models should be utilized and address the on-site characteristics of construction sites, which, in total, renders multi-robot collaboration in on-site environments a complex engineering task that will be addressed in this subproject.

Research objectives

The goal of this subproject is to advance multi-robot collaboration, aiming to support monitoring and inspection of civil engineering structures. Integrating different robot types for solving different tasks, this subproject will take advantage of the semantics provided by existing digital building models. Drawing from a common starting point that aligns all subprojects with the information backbone of the overall research unit, a semantic inspection model will be developed, based on a semantic analysis of civil engineering structures and a formalization of monitoring and inspection activities. In addition to the semantic inspection model, a semantic multi-robot collaboration model for monitoring and inspection of civil engineering structures will be developed by conceptualizing the behavior and capabilities of robots using state machines and class diagrams. The aforementioned semantic models, representing the knowledge regarding (i) monitoring and inspection of civil engineering structures and (ii) multi-robot collaboration, will be formalized in the form of ontologies, and the correctness will be verified through model checking. The semantic models will then converge into a collaborative multi-robot inspection methodology, which represents the core of this subproject. The methodology allows, in a generic way, to generate and optimize tasks and plans for monitoring and inspection, based on digital building models. The methodology couples the aforementioned semantic models with reasoning techniques, description and temporal logic, and with multi-agent technology. For validating the proposed methodology, virtual experiments (i.e. simulations) as well as physical experiments (i.e., laboratory and field tests) will be conducted.

Interactions within DFG Research Unit 5672 and expected results

DFG Research Unit 5672 is a joint effort of Hamburg University of Technology, Technical University Munich (lead), Berlin University of Technology, and University of Duisburg-Essen. Representing an essential element of the research unit, this subproject - subproject B ("SP B") - is characterized by strong interactions with the other subprojects of the research unit (Figure 1). As a result of this subproject, it is expected that monitoring and inspection of civil engineering structures is improved by reliable and efficient multi-robot collaboration, valid for different types of robotic systems that make use of the semantics inherent to digital building models readily available in civil engineering.


Professor Dr. Kay Smarsly
Hamburg University of Technology
Institute of Digital and Autonomous Construction
Blohmstraße 15
21079 Hamburg