HiBot, a hi-tech venture dedicated to developing robots for infrastructure inspection, announced today that is has developed a light-weight, dexterous manipulator for inspection of confined and hazardous spaces. The manipulator, named FloatArm, can pass through narrow entrances, avoids obstacles and can carry different sensors, such as high-resolution cameras, ultrasound probes and others.
Fuel tanks of commercial airliners are one example of confined and hazardous spaces that must be inspected regularly. HiBot is now working with ST Engineering’s aerospace arm, a leading MRO based in Singapore, for such application. By using FloatArm for fuel tank inspection, there is a reduced need to send people inside the narrow and potential hazardous tanks, thus improving occupational health, safety and efficiency. In addition, FloatArm sensors can provide an unprecedented level of detail from the tanks, paving the way for digitisation of aircraft maintenance.
The current version of FloatArm, expandable up to 2m in length, was tested in Singapore on a mock-up of an aircraft fuel tank, and the arm's capabilities were demonstrated to ST Engineering personnel.
 According to HiBot’s CEO, Michele, Guarnieri, “this work in cooperation with ST Engineering, a world leader in the field of MRO, offers us a glimpse into the future. Smart MRO, combining robotics, micro-electronics and AI, will change the way inspection and maintenance are performed. For HiBot, it is an honor to be leading this change.”
The total mass of FloatArm is 25kg, which makes it the lightest manipulator for inspection of confined and hazardous spaces in the world. HiBot, announced that it is working on a 5-meter long version, which will be released in the end of the year.