Robots hailed as safety solution

TINY robots developed by Scottish scientists are set to improve the safety of aeroplanes, nuclear power plants and oilrigs.

Measuring just 10cm square, the devices use ultrasound, electrical currents, magnetic fields and cameras to inspect structures for cracks, corrosion and leaks.

Scientists at Strathclyde University believe using them will be cheaper, safer and more accurate than checks by humans.

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The team is working with companies including Rolls-Royce, BP, British Nuclear Fuels and Airbus.

Professor Gordon Hayward, who led the project, said: "Most structural inspection is carried out by a human operator, which is time-consuming, expensive and prone to error. Industrial structures can be hazardous, in the case of nuclear plants, or inaccessible, such as a buried pipeline. Inspection by robots would be a great advantage.

"Currently, industrial plants often need to be shut down to allow access for a structural inspection to be carried out. A team of mini robots would be capable of assessing an active industrial environment, which obviously minimises the disruption and the cost associated with halting production."

Each battery-powered robot uses its own computer to process data and locate defects. This information is sent to a central computer for analysis.

The robots will be in action at the Royal Society's Glasgow Science Exhibition, opening today at the Glasgow Science Centre.

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