Lockheed Martin has developed a robot that autonomously inspects and repairs the flexible outer casings of airships.
Construction is an industry that has one of the highest risks, and maintenance work can be disruptive and dangerous for humans. That’s why we are seeing robotics solutions such as these tiny robots that help with underfloor repairs. Now, a small robot from Lockheed Martin is keeping next-generation airships safe.
The flexible outer housing of airships need routine inspections, as even small pinhole perforations can have a detrimental effect on flight. Previously, these are carried out by human engineers on deflated airships. To make the process safer and more efficient, Lockheed Martin has developed a UAV that autonomously covers the whole airship casing without the need to deflate. The SPIDER (Self-Propelled Instruments for Damage Evaluation and Repair) is made up of two magnetically-connected halves, each working on the interior and exterior of the ship to comb the entire casing of the vehicle. The outer unit projects light across the surface so that, if a hole is present, the inner unit detects and patches up the damage on-site.
Lockheed Martin has recently partnered with Hybrid Enterprises to begin commercial airship construction. Far from nostalgic throwbacks, airships are being hailed as low energy aeronautical alternatives, capable of carrying large-capacity loads over long distances. What industrial applications could next-generation airships provide?