The New “Creatures” of Air Travel

little robots in engine

Here’s something you have probably never expected or, frankly, wanted someone to invent: robotic cockroaches! Oh, they also made some snake robots too. Who are the creators of these machines you ask? It’s only multibillion-dollar company Rolls-Royce, partnered with students from Harvard University and University of Nottingham! They aim to challenge current aircraft upkeep by making small robots that will enter combustion chambers and other parts of airplanes to reduce maintenance time and increase thoroughness of inspections. Conventionally, engine repairs can take about five hours because the entire engine must be removed in order to be fixed; however, with these robots, the time could be reduced to merely minutes. These civil serpents and robot roaches are starting to sound a lot cooler than before!

Using the Buddy Sy(hissss)stem

Both the snake-bots and robotics roaches will act in pairs when they are sent to examine an airplane! Each bot is equipped with a 3D scanner and camera mounted on it. One bot deployed is assigned as the inspector and it will go search for what needs to be repaired, run diagnostics on the damaged area, and report back to its partner. This robot would also remove debris and scope out any dangerous areas the second bot should avoid. Then, the engineers (us, humans!) will equip the second robot with the “tools” it needs to fix the issue found, unless it is too big for the robot to handle.

The cockroach robots will act semi-autonomously, while the snake bots are tethered back to machines outside the airplane. These tethered snakes also can carry the cockroaches as they make their way through the different airplane chambers and deploy them when they reach their desired destination! The robot roaches have tiny feet, so it would take them forever to get through an airplane by themselves. These robotics roaches are far from insects now… they are inspects!

What’(hissss)s happening?

Currently, the snake and roach robots are far from ready to be used. Still in the prototype stages, these roaches are going to require a lot more research in order to make them small enough to crawl through airplane chambers! The next step is to work on getting their size down to 15 millimeters, so cameras can be mounted on them. Even though our robot creatures aren’t ready yet, Rolls-Royce is already testing something new, remote boreblending. This fixes “damage to compressor blades in the engine that Rolls-Royce said engineers should be using within two years.” Blade damage is typically fixed by skilled mechanics, but the time it takes to execute this includes the time it takes for mechanics to travel to the airplane. Remote boreblending would allow these mechanics to remain at an availability center where they would control a boreblending machine electronically. This removes the issue of time, because they wouldn’t have to fly or drive out to these airplane facilities!

Although these new robotic inspectors resemble some unpopular critters, they promise to be extremely useful in the future! Robotic serpents and roaches are the future of air travel. Who knew?!