For the third year in a row, Farnell element14 is proud to be an official partner of Startupbootcamp IoT, an intensive three-month acceleration program for tech-based startups. We recently traveled to Startupbootcamp IoT's London headquarters to meet the participating startups for the 2018 cohort.
Every month, airlines spend millions of dollars on maintenance as a result of damage caused by debris on the airfield. SweepTEQ, a tech startup from the United Arab Emirates, have designed a line of autonomous robots capable of identifying and disposing of debris - reducing costs, increasing efficiency and improving safety and security on the airfield.
How it works
For safety reasons, SweepTEQ's debris collecting robots only run their scans when the airfield is empty. To ensure this, they employ autonomous motion planning to allow for different modes depending on how much time is available between flights. If there is enough time, the robot will follow a detailed pattern to cover each and every meter of the aircraft stand. If time is more limited, they will prioritize areas expected to fall under the aircraft engines and tires to save time.
Using advanced cameras and image sensors, the device identifies debris and a collects it into an on-board compartment, which can be easily removed and cleared out by the operator at any time. If a piece of debris is discovered which is larger than the robot's capacity, it automatically sends a report to the operator for manual collection.
After completing each scan, the robot will also submit a detailed analytics report on the size, location and material of any debris found, so that airports can identify the most common sources of airfield debris and install preventative measures where possible.
SweepTEQ's hardware uses a custom robotic platform capable of collecting virtually any kind of debris in a wide band of sizes - from a small coin to a large plastic bottle. The device moves on wheels, and is fast enough to navigate an aircraft stand of up to 100x100 meters in a matter of minutes. The processor is an NVIDIA Techno Board, which processes the computer vision functionalities and controls the robot's mechanics, while a duel camera system helps the robot to discern the size and material of any objects it encounters, and to identify how far apart different pieces of debris might be. They are considering adding thermal imaging functionality to improve performance during different weather conditions such as fog and heavy rain.
The software works in two key ways. First, in the motion planning - wherein the device is able to identify the boundaries of the aircraft stand, utilize GPS motion planning, upload a blueprint of the airfield map and sync all of this information together to ensure the robot never leaves its designated area.
The second key software functionality is object detection. They are currently using edge detection to identify different kinds of debris, as it is subject to fewer variables in this context than the alternative method of using color detection. One of the major challenges they are currently investigating is how the device can be programmed to differentiate between water and oil on the airfield, as the latter could indicate a potential leak which would need to be reported.
Similar solutions to SweepTEQ do exist on the market, but these competitors tend to focus solely on detection, rather than detection and collection. In addition, they are usually limited to use on the runway. SweepTEQ is the first solution of its kind to handle detection and collection in addition to covering multiple areas of the airfield, such as the hangar, aircraft stands and the passenger boarding bridge and providing analytics.
Joining the Startupbootcamp IoT Program...
"What attracted me to the Startupbootcamp IoT program is the valuable partnerships they can offer" explains SweepTEQ CEO Ahmed El Rayes. "For example, as a startup dealing in the aviation industry, the fact that they're in partnership with a company like Rolls Royce, who also deal closely with the aviation industry, offers us a great opportunity to learn from the experiences of an established brand."
"In addition, we were attracted to the extensive experience the program has with hardware development for startups. When you see names like RPD International on the partner list, you can relieve believe that this is the right place to support a hardware startup like ours..."
We'll be continuing to check in with SweepTEQ and the other Startupbootcamp IoT 2018 participants over the coming weeks, so keep checking this space for more updates. You can also learn more about SweepTEQ on their official website and on the Startupbootcamp website.