QuicaBot, the robot building inspector, to be launched in Singapore

A robot building inspector equipped with lasers and infrared cameras has been developed by researchers in Singapore to look for cracks and defects inside houses.

The QuicaBot, for Quality Inspection and Assessment Robot, is autonomous and can scan a room in about half the time required by human inspectors. However, the robot’s inventors from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University don’t envision the technology replacing human workers. The robot is actually designed to work side by side with a human inspector. 

“Visual inspection of a new building is an intensive effort that takes two inspectors, so we have designed a robot to assist a human inspector to do his job in about half the time, saving precious time and manpower, and with great accuracy and consistency,” explained Erdal Kayacan, from NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, who led the research project. 

“The robot can scan an entire room to detect defects according to stringent and consistent standards, and then upload its data in 3D into a database. This means all defects will have their visual and detailed measurements recorded automatically, which can be accessed by the inspectors and the building owners.” 

The robot, developed in cooperation with Singapore’s national industrial developer JTC and local start-up CtrlWorks, is equipped with two laser scanners – a smaller one for navigation and mapping, and a large one for inspecting walls. It also carries an inclinometer for checking whether floors are even. Its thermal infrared camera can detect cavities below tiles while a small standard colour camera detects cracks on the walls. All the data can be uploaded into an online database and visualised in 3D to help the human operator assess the state of the building.

“Using cameras and lasers which are more accurate than manual measurements, our robot has shown that it is able to assess the interior architectural defects of a building according to existing industry standards,” said Professor Chen I-Ming, director of the NTU Robotic Research Centre and co-leader of the project. 

The robot is capable of detecting a whole range of defects including cracks in walls and ceilings or whether walls are not set exactly at a 90-degree angle. To detect them manually, a building inspector will have measurement tools such as a spirit level and set square. 

“The use of such automation in construction projects can go a long way in raising the quality of inspections and alleviating the manpower crunch faced by the construction industry,” said Koh Chwee, director of the Technical Services Division of JTC. “JTC hopes that QuicaBot can enable high-quality inspections that are more precise and consistent, while reducing the manpower and time needed to conduct such inspections.” 

The team plans to deploy QuicaBot at a suitable test location within JTC’s industrial developments. 

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