OC Robotics in the U.K., has built and tested a snake-arm robot capable of sealing, swaging, and inspecting the inside of hard-to-reach airplane structures. Such tasks within rib bays and other confined spaces have remained practically impossible to automate, until now. Unlike standard robots, snake-arm robots have no prominent elbows. They have a continuous curving shape like a snake, which lets them handle applications in tight, awkward spaces.
The snake-arm robot is fed through an access hole in the wing by a larger industrial robot from Kuka Robotics Corp., and follows a path into the wing box. The snake-arm has a wrist and tool interface for attaching a variety of tools designed by OC Robotics.