A necessary part of ship maintenance is to inspect hulls, deck plates, and tanks for corrosion, deformation, and fractures to ensure functional integrity and proper operation. Surveyors must carry out these inspections manually, which is labor intensive, expensive, and potentially hazardous. A robot that is able to navigate hard-to-reach and dangerous areas can greatly assist surveyors in their tasks, eliminating risks to personnel and significantly reducing inspection costs and time. Such a robot, outfitted with appropriate sensors, can assist in determining hull thickness, cracks, or general condition of ferrous surfaces; this is of use beyond just maritime vessels. More advanced ship-inspection robots may carry out inspection tasks autonomously or with very little operator involvement. Another area of use for such robots is in the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance domain that can provide remote first-look capability to Navy SEALs and tactical teams.
The multi-segmented magnetic robot (MSMR) has been designed by researchers at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. This invention addresses capability gaps by providing climbing and maneuverability over typical ferrous hulls that often include discontinuities in the form of protrusions and indentations, especially where hull-plating sections meet. The key to its effective maneuverability lies in the multi-segmented design approach, while its low acoustic signature is achieved via its wheel design.
The MSMR is composed of 1) segment modules, which contain the system electronics, motors, and batteries, 2) articulated linkages, which allow relative motion between modules, and 3) magnetic wheels that provide surface adhesion and traction. The robot is designed to withstand the harsh maritime environment. Position feedback from linkages and wheels are provided to the system software that allows for smooth motion while traversing obstacles and corners.
- High mobility: easily traverses vertical & inverted spaces, discontinuities, obstacles, and corners (positive and negative)
- Versatile design: modular construct allows for additional segments to be added to accommodate a variety of sensors to meet mission needs
- Compact: prototype(s) can fit through most tank entry ways
- Prototype(s) built and tested
- US patent 9,586,636 available for license
- Potential collaboration with SSC Pacific researchers