SPIDER: Tiny, Self-Propelled Blimp Inspector
Lockheed Martin has created a robot that can find and repair tiny holes on blimps and airships. SPIDER (Self-Propelled Instrument for Airship Damage Evaluation and Repair) works with Lockheed's new hybrid airship, which is designed to move heavy cargo into areas without with little to no infrastructure. Over two-thirds of the world's land area and more than half the world's population have no direct access to paved roads. SPIDER uses two magnetic halves, one to shine a bright LED light outside the blimp and one that senses this light from the inside to expose holes and problem areas. It can then move its patching mechanism over the hole, repair it, and then take before and after pictures of the fix, allowing a pair of human eyes to inspect it later. Before SPIDER, the only way to search for tiny pinholes was to manually check the surface area with a high-powered light.