In what may look like a headline out of a sci-fi movie plot, Rolls-Royce is developing little “cockroach” robots that will be used to crawl into airplane engines to find problems and fix them.
Rolls-Royce has partnered with robotic experts at Harvard University as well as the University of Nottingham England to explore the idea.
“They could go off scuttling around reaching all different parts of the combustion chamber,” explained James Kell, technology specialist at Rolls-Royce, at the Farnborough International Airshow in England.
The miniature technology is said to improve the way maintenance is carried out by speeding up inspections and eliminating the need to remove an engine from an aircraft for repair work to take place.
Kell also said the robots could save engineers a lot of time. He explained, “If we did it conventionally it would take us five hours; with these little robots, who knows, it might take five minutes.”
According to Sebastian de Rivaz, a research fellow at Harvard Institute, the inspiration for their design came from the cockroach and that the robotic bugs had been in development for eight years.
Mr. de Rivaz explained that the next step was to put cameras on the robots and make them a tiny size of 15-millimeters.
Once the robots had performed their duty, they could be programed to leave the engine or could simply be “flushed out” by the engine itself, said de Rivaz.
The company is also working on snake-like robots that can wind through the engine environment like an endoscope. They would work with others snakes to patch up damaged thermal barrier coatings.
The snake robots would also perform the important role of spitting out smaller cockroach-like “Swarm” robots in the center of the engine.
There has not been any time frame or date of when the cockroach or snake like robots would be available.
The compay did say however that in development is a “remote boreblending robot” to fix damage to compressor blades in the engine that Rolls-Royce said engineers should be using within two years.
Recently Rolls-Royce also announced that it is starting to take orders for its $685,000 first-ever SUV, the Cullinan.
The company expects the Cullinan, named after the world’s biggest uncut diamond, to be its best-selling model to date.
The most expensive SUV ever built, has all-wheel drive, and a 6.76 litre twin-tuborcharged V12 engine.
“This is also the most practical of all Rolls,” says the company’s global client sales manager Ian Grant.
Grant added, “It’s versatile, family-orientated, fun to drive, and the most luxury of all SUVs available on the market today.”