“They could go off scuttling around reaching all different parts of the combustion chamber,” said James Kell, technology specialist at Rolls-Royce.
Speaking at the Farnborough International Airshow in England, Kell added that the robots could save engineers a lot of time.
“If we did it conventionally it would take us five hours; with these little robots, who knows, it might take five minutes,” he added.
To explore the concept, the Rolls-Royce has teamed up with robotics experts at Harvard University in the U.S. and the University of Nottingham in England.
Sebastian de Rivaz, a research fellow at Harvard Institute, said the inspiration for their design came from the cockroach and that the robotic bugs had been in development for eight years.
He added that the next step was to mount cameras on the robots and scale them down to a 15-milimeter size. De Rivaz said that once the robots had performed their duty they could be programed to leave the engine or could simply be “flushed out” by the engine itself.
Also under development are “snake” robots that are flexible enough to travel through an engine like an endoscope.