Challenge for the Position Sensor for Inspection Probes Project

Challenge: Position Sensor Design Challenge

Winner Announced on or About

Brief for Position Sensor Design Challenge

See Official Rules for details.Position sensors are ubiquitous in today’s world – though they are often known by other names. If you have ever used a computer mouse, you have used a position sensor. One of the most complex position encoders would be a variety of technologies that utilize GPS. Considering we are able to detect the position of your car to a few meters with the points of reference being in, quite literally, outer space – it is quite a technological feat. Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum lie sensors such as flock of birds or trakStar . As you can see, position sensors can we wired or wireless, affordable or very expensive.  This challenge seeks to couple a low cost wireless position sensor with hand-held ultrasonic testing (UT) inspection units to make inspections faster, more accurate and safer. UT is an extremely common non-destructive testing process that is widely used in many industries. Industrial applications range from measurement of wall thickness in oil & gas pipe lines (to evaluate corrosion damage) to the measurement of defects in composite parts of wind turbines to microstructure evaluations of welds during pipe manufacturing. While there have been several automation products for taking UT measurements, such as crawlers, robots and pigs – there is still a large need for manual inspections. There are several inspection scenarios where the use of a robotic crawler is not practical. Consider for example, a complex bend in a pipe that is suspended several feet above the ground in a refinery as part of a large piping network. A robotic crawler wouldn’t be able to carry the weight of the cables or the couplant lines and the clearance available around the pipe is often too small to accommodate it. Portable UT systems largely solve these issues with a system that is small enough to be carried to the asset by an operator. However, with the increase in popularity of handheld units that allowed for easy scanning, also arrived a new complication. These units don’t provide a way to accurately track the position of the sensor on the scan surface. Therefore, if the operator wanted to pinpoint the location of an indication he saw on the scan or screen, there is no real way to do it. For example, in the image below, showing the ultrasound scan image of a flat plate, it is easy to see that there are multiple defects within the scan area, seen as red spots. However, if one of those red spots are identified as a defect for further investigation, there is no way to correlate that spot to an exact location on the pipe – most operators today try to mark the approximate point with something physical such as a sharpie for further future investigation.  There are two ways this problem is addressed in the field. One is to pre-grid the areas to be scanned. For example, if an operator is inspecting a pipe elbow in a refinery, she/he manually draws a grid of say 1cm x 1cm on this pipe with a marker or something and inspects in each "square" of the grid. This, however, is too time consuming and error-prone. For very hard to reach and complex shaped structures (imagine a complex bend in a pipe that passes over and under multiple other pipes carrying very hot liquid in a refinery), it often takes several hours just to grid the pipe section – and that is prior to even beginning the scan. The second option is to use an encoder attachment on the transducer as in this video. For this method, the encoder results in a system that is inherently limited in the scan “freedom” – the scans must conform to a surface, must be along a line etc. The system is also bulky and unwieldly with wires, couplant line, encoder data etc., all of which must be carried along with the transducer. With the community’s help, we want to develop a wireless position encoder that makes the job of the inspector easier and safer by eliminating the hours needed for gridding before scanning it in a fundamentally hazardous environment. Even more, a position sensor would enable much higher scan resolution than what could be obtained by even the most painstakingly created manual grid.  This enhanced resolution will directly translate into early detection of issues and increased safety of the assets being inspected. While the ideal submission will be applicable to a wide variety of ultrasonic inspections, the minimum requirement for this challenge is the design of a wireless position sensor for the manual ultrasonic inspection of pipe welds. Check out the Requirements section for details.Subject to Official Rules. Contest opens on 9am ET on June 20, 2017.  Must submit at least one Entry by 11:59pm ET July 24, 2017 to be eligible.  Free FUSE account required. Employees and contractors of GE and Local Motors and any of their respective parents, affiliates or subsidiaries are ineligible.  No purchase necessary.  Void where prohibited.

Go check out the requirements for additional information.


Third Place
$1,000 USD Cash Prize
Second Place
$2,000 USD Cash Prize
First Place
$7,000 USD Cash Prize and may be eligible to receive additional funding, from a total prize pool of up to $40,000 USD, to continue further development and/or commercialization.

Requirements for Position Sensor Design Challenge

Ignition Kit File Downloads


Your Entry must include a design for the following:

  • A wireless sensor unit (the beacon units, if any, may be wired, but wireless beacon units are preferred); 
  • A sensor having coverage of, at a minimum 1meter x 1meter projected on to the surface of a pipe that can range in diameters from 1inch to 36inches; 
    • While 1meter x 1meter is a minimum requirement – any prediction/calculation of largest possible scan area without loss in resolution would be appreciated. 
  • A sensor that detects linear position in x, y, and z directions with a linear resolution of 1mm x 1mm x 1mm and detects angular deflection in its plane from a nominal, pre-defined vertical line with an angular resolution of 10;  
  • A system capable of being implemented on pipes with diameters ranging from 1inch to 36inches; 
    • You may choose to design for a nominal pipe diameter of 12 inches but the physics of the system should work for the entire range above. Specifically, the system must be trivially modifiable, in construction alone, to fit the entire range of pipe diameters. 
    • The system must be operable on pipes that are unsupported at heights of 1-30m above ground. 
      • Again, you may choose to design for a nominal height of 10m above ground. However, the physics of the proposed system should not be limited by the height of the pipe above ground. 
    • The system should work on pipe surfaces that curve with a curve radii ranging from 1.5 to 2 times the OD of the pipe. 
  • A system that is modifiable for all clearances from 150mm to 600mm but may be designed for a nominal clearance of 300mm. This clearance is defined as the distance from the outer surface of the pipe to the nearest structure; 
  • A sensor unit that is smaller than the probe unit (20mm by 50mm.); 
  • A system that returns the position information via either a I2C bus (preferred, outputting the absolute position as a 4-count) or another connection with an update rate of not less than 50Hz; and
  • A unit with estimated material costs of not greater than $1,000.00 


The objective of this challenge is to design a wireless position sensor for the manual ultrasonic inspection of pipe welds.


Up to 3 winning Entries will be awarded cash prizes of $7,000, $2,000, $1,000 USD, respectively (from a total prize pool of $10,000). 

The First Place Winner also will be eligible to receive additional funding for a six month period (from a total prize pool of up to $40,000 USD) to continue further development and/or commercialization of winner’s Entry technology, provided winner enters into the Development Funding Business Relationship. See Official Rules for details.

Should a team be awarded as winner, the cash prizes will be provided to the Team Leader for distribution amongst the Team members.


Multiple individuals may collaborate as a team. You may not participate on more than one team. You must register individually for the Challenge before joining a team.  You will need to identify your team, as well as the team leader, at the outset of the Entry in accordance with the requested Entry deliverable. 

A single individual member must serve as an official representative for each team as the team leader. If more than one leader is named for a team, the team will be disqualified from the Challenge.  Team leader is the person submitting the entry. There is no size limit to team size. 


  • June 20, 2017 at 9AM ET- Challenge opens to all eligible participants.
  • July 24, 2017 at 11:59PM ET - Challenge closes and all Entries must be submitted.
  • July 25, 2017 at 12:00AM ET - Validation opens for all submitted Entries. 
  • July 31 at 11:59PM ET - Validation closes and Judging occurs.
Winners will be announced on or about September 5, 2017. The server hosting the Competition Website is the official time clock for the Competition. 


Entries will be evaluated based on compliance with Entry Requirements as well as upon a combination of the following:

  • Completeness of the Entry;
  • Technical Feasibility of your proposed solution;
  • Range, resolution and accuracy;
  • Estimated implementation and production costs; and
  • Proposed solution’s ease of use and simplicity.

See Official Rules for details.


General Guidelines: Entries should be in PDF report format of approximately 5-10 pages and contain the following information and elements (BUT SHOULD NOT DISCLOSE CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION):

  • An executive summary describing your proposed solution; 
  • A detailed description of your proposed solution scheme, including any supporting drawings and dimensions; 
  • A description, to the best of your knowledge, of how your proposed solution might affect scan quality and speed; and 
  • A brief description of you (or your Team’s) experience, background and capabilities, including relevant past projects and experiences.  If your Entry is submitted on behalf of a team, each team member should be named individually in the description.

The list below are suggested items for inclusion in your entry. While these are not strict requirements, and some submissions may not need all these elements, a more complete entry will be judged more favorably.

  • Full CAD drawings and files for any mechanical designs;
  • Complete material specifications;
  • Circuit diagrams and specifications for all electronic components;
  • Protocol and messaging details for any communication system designs;
  • Any associated software algorithms or pseudocode needed for the data processing;
  • Estimates of prototyping costs; and
  • Analysis of the accuracy range and resolution of the system.

Subject to Official Rules. Contest opens on 9am ET on June 20, 2017.  Must submit at least one Entry by 11:59pm ET July 24, 2017 to be eligible.  Free FUSE account required. Employees and contractors of GE and Local Motors and any of their respective parents, affiliates or subsidiaries are ineligible.  No purchase necessary.  Void where prohibited.

Challenge Terms and Conditions

Entry list for Position Sensor Design Challenge

31 Entries Submitted

Please note that for this challenge, entries are private and only viewable by the creator, admins, and judging panel.

Challenge Discussion for Position Sensor Design Challenge