Robotic Arm Tool Poised to Save Costly Inspection Time

Robotic Arm Tool Poised to Save Costly Inspection Time
March 27, 2017 | Source: U.S. Air Forec, af.mil, 19 February 2017, Holly Jorden

AFRL researchers recently traveled to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to demonstrate the Remote Access Nondestructive Evaluation (RANDE) system. Developed through a contracted effort with OC Robotics of Bristol, United Kingdom, RANDE is a flexible, robotic snake-arm tool that can reach into confined areas to perform required inspections, or simply look into tight spaces.

Typically, when military depot or field personnel perform routine inspections on hard-to-reach components such as the interior of aircraft wings, they first have to remove the wing, then remove additional structure within the wing so that inspectors can reach in with specialized equipment. With RANDE, the need to remove the wing for inspection can be eliminated. Instead, maintainers only need to remove the necessary external access panels and maneuver the snake arm through an access hole as small as three inches in diameter. This simplified process results in reduced maintenance hours -- due to quicker inspection preparation -- and eliminates the possibility of maintenance-induced damage from the pre-inspection processes.

At the end of the snake arm is a multi-axis maneuverable head that includes multiple lights, small cameras, and a port to which inspectors can easily attach a variety of interchangeable nondestructive inspection tools, including eddy current probes. The system is easily portable and can be wheeled to the inspection area for quick setup and use. A laptop computer records the full robotic motion, video camera images, and inspection data; as the robotic arm is easily maneuvered with the use of a familiar joystick game controller.