Snakes on a plane!

October 1, 2012

S7 snake robot with sensor suite including compass, pyroelectric heat and active infrared range sensors (credit: Dr. Gavin Miller,

Engineers at firms like Rolls-Royce and GE are developing “snake robots” with intelligent algorithms to find and repair problems in plane engines, New Scientist reports.

The slithering simulants would be about 12.5 millimeters (1/2 inch) in diameter, controlled by a technician as they are guided through the engine’s insides, beaming back images — a bit like telesurgery, a Rolls-Royce executive said.

Finding and fixing defects in planes is currently a complex. time-consuming, and very expensive process.

The wriggling robots would use UV lasers (to make the edges of blade fractures fluoresce) and a grinding tool to sand down things like damaged compressor blades, would be able to survive within the  2000 °C temperatures at running engines’ core. A prototype is scheduled for 2014.