A UAV-Based Framework for Semi-Automated Thermographic Inspection of Belt Conveyors in the Mining Industry

Sensors (Basel). 2020 Apr 15;20(8):2243. doi: 10.3390/s20082243.


Frequent and accurate inspections of industrial components and equipment are essential because failures can cause unscheduled downtimes, massive material, and financial losses or even endanger workers. In the mining industry, belt idlers or rollers are examples of such critical components. Although there are many precise laboratory techniques to assess the condition of a roller, companies still have trouble implementing a reliable and scalable procedure to inspect their field assets. This article enumerates and discusses the existing roller inspection techniques and presents a novel approach based on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) integrated with a thermal imaging camera. Our preliminary results indicate that using a signal processing technique, we are able to identify roller failures automatically. We also proposed and implemented a back-end platform that enables field and cloud connectivity with enterprise systems. Finally, we have also cataloged the anomalies detected during the extensive field tests in order to build a structured dataset that will allow for future experimentation.

Keywords: UAV inspection; computer vision; conveyor belt; idler rollers; maintenance; thermography.