A swarm of micro-sized robots working in unison and carrying out mechanical repairs might sound like a scene from a sci-fi movie, but Rolls-Royce is trying to turn this into reality. At the Farnborough Airshow, along with the flying taxi concept Rolls-Royce showcased its new vision for the future of engine maintenance which involves tiny cockroach-like bots. As part of its project called the IntelligentEngine, scientists from Rolls-Royce have laid out their plans for snake and insect-swarm-inspired robots that will crawl inside engines to carry out inspections and perform maintenance.
“We are in the process of developing a number of miniature devices that enable us to get inside the jet engine to perform inspections or repairs,” Dr. James Kell, on wing technology specialist at Rolls-Royce, told Digital Trends. “Repairs can be in the form of removing damaged material or putting material back on. To allow us to perform these repairs, we are working with an extensive network of partners to develop mechatronic probes — similar in nature to keyhole surgery techniques.”
Rolls-Royce has partnered with Harvard University and the University of Nottingham to build 10mm miniature, collaborative robots called SWARM. Although the project in still in its development phase, these tiny robots will help make engine maintenance faster, less labor-intensive and cost effective. The engines won’t have to be removed from the aircraft body for inspection; the bots will be equipped with a camera and 3D scanner to detect issues. The bots will also be tooled to carry out necessary repairs.