AI News, How Lockheed Martin's SPIDER Blimp-Fixing Robot Works

How Lockheed Martin's SPIDER Blimp-Fixing Robot Works

Airships, which are distinct from blimps by being much more rigid and sounding much less silly, are one of those unusual technologies that has been undergoing a resurgence recently after falling out of favor half a century ago.

Airships have potential to be a very practical and cost effective way to move massive amounts of stuff from one place to another place, especially if the another place is low on infrastructure and has a reasonable amount of patience.

Their LMH-1 will be able to carry over 20,000 kilogramsof whatever you want, along with 19 passengers, up to 2,500 kilometers, and it’s going to be a real thing: Hybrid Airships recently closed a US $480 million contract to built 12 of them for cargo delivery.

As part of the construction and ongoing maintenance of an airship, it’s important to inspect the envelope (the chubby bit that holds all the helium) for tiny holes that,over time, can have a significant impact on the airship’s ability to fly.

To help out, Lockheed Martin has developed “Self-Propelled Instruments for Damage Evaluation and Repair,” or SPIDERs, which are teams of robots that can inspect airship skins for holes as well as representing one of the less ludicrous robot acronyms that we’ve seen recently.

We were able to use our expertise in advanced manufacturing to 3D print parts on demand, allowing us to rapidly build and test new designs and learn from our successes and failures.

The challenge of driving in strange orientations on the envelope and still accurately measuring movement is done using optical encoders watching the envelope pass rather than shaft encoders which are susceptible to wheel slippage.

We expect to utilize five to six SPIDERS on the LMH-1 vehicle, which has roughly 80,000 square feet of envelope, in less than five days depending on the number of pinholes found.

This demonstrates the amazing growth of the robotics community in the past few years and demonstrates that with the right applications robotics can be used to solve a vast set of challenges.

Lockheed Martin Sustainability Report

With unlimited access to isolated locations around the globe, Hybrid Airships safely and sustainably support a wide range of activities in areas with little to no infrastructure.

The airship offers the simplicity of a pickup truck by carrying cargo loads and personnel in and out of remote areas daily, not just certain seasons or only after major road, rail or airport infrastructure is developed.