Where and how AI is used
Presumably, drones and crawling robots will do those jobs. But where and how exactly will AI fit into such an inspection process for the industrial market?

We asked Alex Tepper, founder and head of corporate and business development at Avitas Systems, to break it down. “There are many different spots where AI will be used,” he said.

First, AI can develop “optimal flight patterns” for drones to collect data in images and video.

Further, AI can create 3D models of an “asset” — a transmission tower, pipelines or oil refineries. It can then layer “points of interest” on top of such 3D models to enable drones and robots to spot anomalies such as cracks or corrosion, thus automating the defect detection process.

AI also has powers to “fuse” sets of different sensory data, said Tepper, developing algorithms that will help with risk analysis and predict when the next inspection is necessary, for example. 

Of course, lots of companies are beginning to use drones and robotics to remotely inspect industrial infrastructure. Naturally, AI helps map out optimized “repeatable” paths for drones. 

The key word is “repeatable.” Tepper explained that the repeatability of a drone’s path, for example, can create an opportunity for deep learning. Ultimately, the benefits of AI are in “risk-based data collection” and “development of master algorithms for risk analysis,” he added.

Division of labor
As for the collaboration between Nvidia and Avitas Systems, which company does what? How’s this going to work?

Avitas Systems is tasked with providing subject matter experts and AI data scientists. Nvidia offers DGX-1 and DGX Station systems for AI training — involved in automated defect recognition. 

“We provide tools — AI development frameworks and CUDA platform — which helps unleash the skill set of Avitas’ data scientists,” explained Jim McHugh, General Manager of DGX Systems for Nvidia.

Tepper added, “As we collect a massive number of high definition pictures collected by drones, we need a place to store and process data, and run models and algorithms. For that, we need a huge amount of computing power,” which Nvidia provides.

AI’s benefits to the inspection services industry are clear. AI can bring more accurate data-based risk analysis, compared to traditional time-based inspection practices, which can be expensive and which could miss critical defects that escape the inspection window.

Next page: AI's missing link