Avitas Systems, a GE subsidiary based in Boston, is now using drones and robots to automate the inspection of infrastructure such as pipelines, power lines, and transportation systems. The company is using off-the-shelf machine-learning technology from Nvidia (50 Smartest Companies 2017) to guide the checkups, and to automatically identify anomalies in the data collected.
The effort shows how low-cost drones and robotic systems—combined with rapid advances in machine learning—are making it possible to automate whole sectors of low-skill work. While there is plenty of worry about the automation of jobs in manufacturing and offices, routine security and safety inspections may be one of the first big areas to be undermined by advances in AI.
Drones have been used on some industrial sites for a while (see “New Boss on Construction Sites Is a Drone”), and various companies, such as Kespry, Flyability, and CyPhy, offer aerial systems for monitoring mines, inspecting wind turbines, and assessing building insurance claims. But the technology required to automate more of the process is now becoming accessible. Similar technology is also enabling robots to cruise autonomously through offices and malls looking for anomalous behavior (see “Rise of the Robot Security Guard”).
Avitas uses drones, wheeled robots,
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