American technology company Lockheed Martin has lofty ambitions for its hybrid air vehicle – a helium-filled airship that can land and take off from the ground or even water.
But tiny pinholes in the woven walls of its gas-filled envelope are difficult to find. It used to need a crew of workers shining a bright light onto the deflated walls – a time-consuming and, let’s face it, tedious job.
So they developed a self-propelled instrument for damage evaluation and repair – more catchily known as SPIDER.
The autonomous robot is in two parts. One part is inside the envelope while the other is on the outside. As runs over the inflated chambers, it shines a light onto the surface, scanning for pin holes as the manual crew used to do.
When it finds a hole, it patches it and lets the crew know.
If a SPIDER robot fails, other SPIDER bots can be rerouted to make sure the whole ship is scanned.