Lockheed Martin’s ‘spider’ robot searches airships for tiny holes, then patches them

The airship industry is not a huge one, but it could be far more lucrative for those involved if there was a cheap and easy way to patch holes in them. Fortunately Lockheed Martin is right on top of that, as it’s developed a new “spider” robot to clamber all over the airship’s envelope and discover tiny holes in it, before automatically patching them up itself.

Repairs are a major problem for airship running. With even the tiniest of holes, much of the craft’s efficiency is lost, so keeping the envelope (the big air sack on top of the ship) air-tight is incredibly important.  Before this bot, finding and fixing those holes involved manually searching over the surface to find them, before repairing them by hand.

That seems awfully 20th century, so the researchers at Lockheed Martin have developed the SPIDER: a “self propelled instrument for airship damage evaluation and repair”. It even fitted a series of wires over the top of it so it actually looks like a spider.

In actuality though, it works in a manner similar to those magnets that you use to clean your fish tank. The Spider is attached in two halves, one to the exterior of the envelope and another to the interior. Together they move across the entire surface of the air sack and, using a light on one half and a sensor on the other, detect holes in the material. Better yet, they then fix up the hole to make sure that it will no longer be a problem.

Why is Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s most advanced aerospace and military contractors, developing airships? Because it believes that a new “hybrid” airship design, could be perfect for specific tasks in the future, like low-cost cargo transport, disaster relief and even military uses.

They combine airship technology for high-efficiency flight, with fixed wing aerodynamics and air cushioned, hover-craft like feet, which let it navigate safely on the ground too.

Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Computing

Windows updates shouldn't cause problems, but if they do, here's how to fix them

Windows update not working? It's a more common problem than you might think. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot it and in this guide we'll break them down for you step by step.
Gaming

A master agent’s guide to skills and perks in The Division 2

As a Division agent, you have access to a variety of specialized skills that can really, really help you in combat. Certain perks are also quite vital to your success. Our skills and perks guide has all the details.
Emerging Tech

Don’t get burned! How to back crowdfunding projects the smart way

In the world of crowdfunding, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. There's a million reasons why a project might fail. But with this handy guide, you'll be able to spot the signs of a sketchy project and decrease your chances of getting…
Computing

Enjoy Windows on a Chromebook with these great tips and tricks

If you want to push the functionality of your new Chromebook to another level, and Linux isn't really your deal, you can try installing Windows on a Chromebook. Here's how to do so in case you're looking to nab some Windows-only software.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.
Business

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.
Computing

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.
Computing

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 
Business

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.