SurveyFusion

One digital system to collect and analyse data from different surveys, by different suppliers, collected manually or remotely.

Overview

Current methods of asset surveying required multiple surveyors to inspect and record data which must be made compatible before being recorded into the digital twin. A process that can be time consuming and prone to error. Remote Inspection Technique Systems (RITS), such as crawlers and ground or aerial vehicles are increasingly being used to access dangerous or inaccessible areas on vessels, and this data must also be recorded. These survey produce masses of uncorrelated data organised in a “by surveyor” or “temporal” database making the recall of data extremely difficult. The need for a system to manage complex assets was clear.

Approach

Compatibility between different survey data was the primary challenge to overcome with SurveyFusion. We solved this issue in two stages – (1) survey data collection is carried out in combination with our Adaptable Sensor Pack (ASP) and (2) the Survey Review Software is used for visualising and assessing the survey data. Createc’s ASP is based on technology developed for the civil nuclear industry. The ASP can be attached to any RITS or even hand carried by the surveyor for a manual survey.

The advantage of SurveyFusion is that data collected by a manual survey or a RITS-deployed survey, both using an ASP module, can all be fused to form a composite representation of the ship with all data aligned to the same spatial co-ordinates. Surveys can be undertaken by different people, on different days using
different equipment and the all data would be compatible with the SurveyFusion system.

For example, currently video surveys require a surveyor to review the images in time order. This can cause issues when a recording moves in the wrong direction and makes it difficult to identify the image which covers a particular area of interest. In our Survey Review Software images are indexed spatially and accessed through a 3D representation of the ship or Digital Twin.

Solution

To solve this challenge we partnered with BMT whose expertise in ship inspections enabled a focus on true value to be maintained.  

We developed a back end fusion system that enables data recorded with multiple platforms to be located within a single digital twin. This mapping system puts all data in the same frame of reference to enable data recall based on location or asset.  

This information was passed into a high fidelity 3D visualisation developed by BMT that enables the recall of data for the end user.  

SurveyFusion reduces ship survey time, improves the analysis of data and integrates remote survey methods. Based on technology developed for remote access to nuclear facilities, SurveyFusion enables human and robotic systems to collaborate seamlessly while performing a survey and collecting data. 

Conclusion

Reduce survey time 
Survey at sea. Combine different sensors types easily. 

The project developed a low TRL application but with a clear roadmap to increase from TRL 3 to 5 this financial year and then to 7 within 24 months. 

The Ship Inspection project recognised a range of benefits to be realised in future phases although these are not fully financially assessed yet. These are shown below which align to an aspect of realising Digital Twins for the Royal Navy. 

Re-Use of Survey Data 

  • Compare survey information to identify trends or deterioration of material state over time. 
  • Recall other relevant survey data, reports and drawings. 

 

Intuitive User Interface 

  • Cost effective capture and generation of As-Build Digital Twins 

 

Open Survey Methods 

  • Survey capture can be done by anyone and integrated into the Digital Twin model. 
  • Multiple options for mounting sensors from handheld, to UAV and ground based vehicles. 

 

Based on this we predict saving of: 

  • 10-20% reduction in workforce planning; 
  • 30-50% reduction in predictive maintenance; 
  • 20-30% increase in data utilisation; and 
  • 20-40% reduction in reactive maintenance (although this has been found to be much higher in some instances). 

 

Specifically for surveys the immediate savings relate directly to: 

  • Reducing Operational Expenses relating to Manual Surveys; 
  • Up to 66% reduction in the personnel required to capture survey data; 
  • A 50% reduction in the time to taken to conduct a survey; 
  • A significant reduction in all costs associated with travel; 
  • Elimination of productivity downtime associated with travel; 
  • Reduction in equipment expenses involved in data capture; 
  • Reduction or removal of human-risk related to data capture. 
  • Additionally longer term benefits and savings can be realised based on trend monitoring and proactive maintenance:
    Layered survey data enables remote monitoring of trends that supports more targeted work force planning reducing the need for lengthy support periods and reducing the likelihood of downtime due to defects. 
  • Compilation of data enables further automation of processes in the review of data enables further reductions in the time and cost of analysing surveys. 
matt

Matt Mellor, Managing Director

Matt Mellor started his career as an academic working in research and development at Oxford University where his specialist field was in computer vision and robotics with medical application. But in writing papers, which he says were mainly “read by other academics so they could cite it in their research”, Matt could see there was a vital component missing.

“To turn that research into a product I learned that you have got to make that happen yourself to ensure others recognise the value of it,” said Matt. “That started me on an odyssey to learn about the full process of technological development. That means not just learning about technology, but also about business, people, finance – all the parts you need to make something happen which is going to make a positive change in the world.”

With that in mind, Matt moved to Cumbria and joined REACT Engineering. “REACT put the emphasis on entrepreneurship and I joined the company to apply what I had learned in nuclear medicine to nuclear engineering.” In particular, Matt was able to apply his knowledge in medical imaging to provide smart, technological solutions to the nuclear clean-up industry.

In 2007, Matt was the technical lead in setting up REACT’s own spin-out – aerial surveying company, Hi-Def, which gave him valuable experience of the process involved in setting up a spin-out business. Hi-Def went on to be a sustainable, successful business in its own right and in 2016 became part of the BioConsult SH group. Meanwhile, Matt set up Createc in June 2010, and as CEO has led the company to achieve impressive growth ever since.

Createc started out with just three members of staff – Matt, Alan Shippen and Pete Rodgers. The company’s mission was to create a profitable business out of computer vision and robotics research and development, demonstrating the value such a service adds to industry. Building on technological expertise in the nuclear sector learned from REACT Engineering, Createc developed its N-Visage® technology which went on to be used in the clean-up following the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan.

Closer to home, Createc used its intellectual property in computer vision to build a business opportunity and set up spin-out company, Sportlight. Earlier this year, it launched a second spin-out from its robotics expertise creating Createc Robotics.

Looking ahead, as society and industry move out of a Covid-19 lockdown, Matt sees robotics playing an ever more important role – but warns those who think it will be an overnight change, to be more patient. “Society has always overestimated what technological development will take place over a two to five-year period. But it has always underestimated what development will take place over 20 years,” said Matt.

“Technological development is an accumulation of small goals which build on top of each other. It creeps forward so that over a 20-year period people then look back and are amazed at how much the world has changed. In 20 years’ time we are going to have a lot more robots, and we will have improved collaboration between human and machine. In some areas that might involve helping to remove people from having to carry out tasks in hazardous environments. In other areas it might be giving people more senses and more capabilities.”

Createc applies its thinking and technologies to any problem to find a solution, and takes a flexible approach when doing so. This means that it can adapt for a range of industries and a range of situations. “We look at the way we can do something, not where we can do it,” said Matt. It’s an approach which has seen its solutions applied in a range of industries and settings, including nuclear and defence, rail and security. Among future growth areas for Createc are heavy engineering, major industrial and general construction.

Createc has received two Queen’s Awards in recent years, one for International Trade and one for Innovation, recognising the company’s success in developing technology. The company is also proud to have won awards for innovation from The Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET), The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Createc’s strategy as it moves beyond its 10-year anniversary is to concentrate on research and development to launch a series of further spin-out companies. Two things Matt is keen to influence in the wider economy to help support the company’s ambitions are funding and leadership. “We need to make sure that the UK is more start-up friendly. And we need more entrepreneurs who want to come and run these businesses,” said Matt. “To me an entrepreneur takes complete ownership and picks their way forward and proceeds confidently in the face of doubt.”

“We have had a sustained growth rate of 40 per cent, and we are focused on continuing to grow at this rate. In the first ten years we have grown from a company with three people turning over £180,000 to 30 people turning over £3.5m. To sustain that level of growth by the end of the next ten years we would have 300 people turning over more than £60m.”

Matt has a clear vision of how the company will keep driving forward, and his motivation and appetite to lead the company to further success is clear. “My motivation comes from bringing something completely new to life which results in the world being a better place,” he said. “Seeing all the pieces come together and creating this thing which creates an economic benefit and also has a positive impact on the world is really satisfying.”