The regular inspection of underground facilities such as pipelines is absolutely essential. Pipeline leakage caused by corrosion and deformation must be detected in time, otherwise, it may cause fatal disasters for human beings. In our previous research, a robot chain system (RCS) based on visible light relay communication (VLRC) for pipe inspection has been developed. This system can basically realize the light-based transmission of control command signals and illuminance-based coordinated movement, whereas the collection and transmission approach of the pipe leakage image have not been studied. Compared with former in-pipe wireless communication techniques, VLRC can not only overcome the instability and inefficiency of in-pipe data transmission but also extend the communication range with high transmission rates. The most important feature is that it can provide a stable illumination and high-quality communication for pipe inspection robot and finally improve the energy efficiency. Hence, the aim of this article is to analyze the performance of VLRC-based image transmission in the pipe and in the future provide a high-quality, long-range, and high-efficiency image transmission for complex infrastructure inspection with RCS. The transmission systems based on two signal transmission modes analog image signal relay transmission (AISRT) and digital image frame relay transmission (DIFRT) have been proposed. Multiple experiments including the waveform test, the test of transmission features with different bit error rate (BER), and in the different mediums were conducted between these two systems. The experiment revealed that DIFRT was superior to the AISRT in terms of the relatively high-quality image transmission and reconstruction quality. It could better overcome the attenuation brought by the absorption and scattering effects and finally increased the transmission range than former communication methods. The DIFRT system could also operate at 50 kbps with relatively low BER whether in the air or water. The technique in this research could potentially provide a new strategy for implementations in the stable, effective, high-speed, and long-range image transmission of the robots in some other special environments such as tunnel, mine, and underwater, etc.
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