Fresh juice


Sunstorm robot for the inspection of aircraft engines

A slimy robot worm developed by researchers at MIT offers a less invasive way to inspect jet engines, slithering into tight spaces inaccessible to traditional boroscopes.

The soft-bodied android, dubbed MechaWorm, was designed specifically to squeeze through the convoluted guts of aircraft turbines. Outfitted with microcameras and sensors, the robot can hunt for cracks, leaks, and hotspots that could signal maintenance issues.

MechaWorm’s flexible silicone exterior allows it to limbo under turbines and coil through intricate pipework without risk of scratching or gouging sensitive components. Onboard LEDs illuminate the dark turbine interior as the android wends through the inner workings.

Powerful onboard batteries provide over an hour of continuous operation time for lengthy inspections. And the robot worm is rugged enough to withstand the hot, harsh conditions inside a jet engine.

MechaWorm’s sensor payload includes thermal imaging to map turbine hot zones and LiDAR to generate 3D reconstructions of hard-to-reach areas. The comprehensive inspection data helps mechanics spot problems early before major repairs are needed.

Jet engine teardowns can keep planes out of commission for weeks and cost millions. MechaWorm provides a minimally invasive alternative for routine maintenance checks. Technicians simply lower the android worm into an engine access port and review the internal imaging afterward.

MIT is now working with aviation partners to test MechaWorm inside working jet engines. They are also developing AI to help the robot navigate autonomously and flag potential defect patterns.

The researchers envision MechaWorm slithering around plane engines on airport tarmacs whenever they return from flights, providing 24/7 monitoring to maximize airline fleet readiness. Robotic worms could thus slim down maintenance costs while making air travel safer.

Share with friends:

Write and read comments can only authorized users