Determining whether there are punctured areas in the body of an airship takes time, attention, and there is always the possibility of human error. Now, Skunk Works, the advanced development programs division of the aerospace technology company Lockheed Martin, has developed a robot that can locate and repair pinholes on an airship.
Dubbed SPIDER, the robot is autonomous, and can complete scans of an airship while the craft is still being assembled. According to the video released by Lockheed Martin introducing SPIDER, multiple robots can be deployed on an airship at the same time, increasing the speed that pinholes can be located and repaired.
Although finding pinholes and repairing them is its primary function, SPIDER does not stop there. The robot notifies the maintenance team when it has found a hole and repaired it, and sends data back to the central processing station so the information can be reviewed. The machine is composed of two magnetically connected components. One half of the robot is on the outside of the airship, and the other half is on the inside.
Although SPIDER significantly cuts down on the potential for human error, there is still the possibility of machine error. What would happen if SPIDER was to malfunction? Or be unable to repair a pinhole? Skunk Works’ solution is that other SPIDER bots that are monitoring the same airship can be re-routed with adjusted search patterns to target the hole that the initial robot failed to repair.
SPIDER is an example of the automation of tasks by machines, both to decrease the probability of making a mistake, and increase the speed at which a task can be completed. Additionally, having SPIDER allows the airship maintenance team to focus on more tasks, and devote more attention to making the craft ready for flight.
Featured Image source – New Atlas, Lockheed Martin
Featured Video source – LockheedMartinVideos