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A Swarm of These Tiny Robots Could Keep Your Plane Flying Safely

Keeping planes’ engines well maintained

16 August, 2018

Rolls-Royce has revealed a project with the Wyss Institute of Harvard University to develop tiny robots that could help inspect all the nooks and crannies of aircraft engines by crawling through around inside, scanning for any tiny flaws that could grow into bigger problems.

Engine checks cost airlines a lot of time and money. Even the shortest checks can take hours to complete, during which the engine must be taken apart, the fan blades and other components checked for problems, and the whole thing put back together again.

KLM, which has leading Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) facilities that serve a number of airlines around the world, explains that a full engine test can take up to 16 hours including disassembling and then rebuilding the engine.

And there are many different types of engine checks required at different points in their service life. It’s very sensitive and specialised work and gets expensive. In 2014, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that engine inspections cost airlines around $24 billion and predicted that costs would rise to $36 billion by 2024.

With this new technology, the robot SWARM would be fed into the engine by a a robot snake, scurry around, and transmit live video from their tiny cameras to the maintenance operator.

These little robot bugs are actually “quadrupedal microbots” which means they move on four legs. They can move vertically or horizontally which would allow them to climb over and through the many wires and turbine components, find the parts they are assigned to check, and then crawl back into the snake to be removed when their work is finished.

If the tiny Rolls-Royce robot SWARM can keep engines flying safely, then they’ll actually be saving lives.




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