back to article US Navy turns to hull-climbing bots to combat maintenance backlog

Never mind seals, the US Navy is turning to geckos to improve its ship inspection capabilities. Much like their amphibiously named comrades, these robots are geckos in name – and wall-climbing capabilities – only.  The bots come from Gecko Robotics, which said last week it had reached a deal with the Navy to supply it with the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Danger of Sabotage

    My old man said that most items he witnessed being sabotaged had their maintenance backlogs automatically zeroed out with a "nah it's fine, don't do maintenance" until the system broke. The humans in the loop never picked it up because the thresholds, for example, contaminated oil, were raised to lethal levels.

    Equally, pipelines exploded when thickness thresolds were zeroed. The bot doing the inspection had the triggers saying "nah, less than 1 mm is fiiiine" and the whole thing went up.

    So yeah, use bots, but be sure they can't be hacked to say "10 milimeters' when the measurement device says in actuality "one milimeter". Both calibration and interpretation are subject to tampering.

    1. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: Danger of Sabotage


      hopefully the data gathered is accurate

      Like everything else its the interpretation that is where the problems lie (as in horizontal).

      the last 3 years is and will be testament to that.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Danger of Sabotage

        So the USSR had secretly hacked Microsoft to create PowerPoint so that maintenance was now in the hands of managers who produced slides saying that it wasn't a priority - now that's long term planning

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Danger of Sabotage

      basically we still need human "supervision" along with high security.

      Having been in a Navy shipyard involving drydocks a few times, there are a LOT of people doing these kinds of tasks - welding, painting, visual inspections, x-ray the hull, etc.

      Robots would help a LOT. But of course people need to supervise them.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting solution

    I'm impressed. From what I can see, this solution would even suit commercial applications as both the reduced time and increased granularity of the survey could be used in seaworthiness assessments.

    Nice example of a problem solved with intelligent engineering.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting solution

      "...problem solved...."

      Any branch will tell you the biggest problem is recruitment... so more like problem worsens.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting solution

      Very much so, it's been used in industry for several years. And underwater surveys in lieu of drydocking, which has already been used on military and commercial vessels.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow, an autonomous mobile limpet mine. Can a trained seal be used to deliver it?

  4. Jemma

    So basically large versions...

    Of my little lesbian lizards - aka Mourning Geckos - this should be interesting. Especially when someone puts guns on it (they will) or gives them an AI, or both.

    Still at least these ones won't show up on my ceiling at 3am chirruping at me because they got out of the viv and now they're hungry... Catching them is an acquired skill.. But the talking is cute, the thinking they can eat fingers is even cuter.

    I just hope they don't go all "short circuit" on people after a thunderstorm..

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: So basically large versions...

      Can they be equipped with Laser beams ?

      Laser beam wielding Lesbian Lizards sounds awesome (possibly as a band name)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So basically large versions...

      You're years behind, that was my last job.

      Autonomous underwater robot, launched from an autonomous boat, armed with shaped charges and/or an underwater shotgun. Intended for clearance of underwater explosives.

      One of the reasons I left was the push from very tightly specified targeting to a more general target-identification system that made me very, very nervous.

      The technology needed for this is skilled-hobbyist level.

      In the commercial world it would be pretty trivial to go from that to a hunt-down-and-destroy security killbot that can distinguish between divers/boats/aquatic life.

  5. Harmon20

    From the video: "Mission readiness is critical for the United States Navy."

    But isn't that the HMS Queen Elizabeth on the screen at 0:12 just as the narrator finishes saying that, and the RFA Tidespring alongside her?

  6. jake Silver badge

    One major issue.

    These things are built and programmed to find and report on one (maybe two or three[0]) potential problems, whereas actual people going over the hull will notice (and hopefully report) all kinds of other problems.

    A[so, WTF does the vessel have to be in drydock for these things to work? Shirley if drydock time is an issue, the robotic survey could be done at anchor pretty much anywhere. Unless the company isn't up to making their toys waterproof ...

    [0] Hull thickness, paint thickness, perhaps primer thickness.

    1. Jemma

      Re: One major issue.

      It's not a matter of waterproof per se. Mourning geckos on glass are fine, Mourning geckos on damp glass tend to slide like a soccer mom in a range rover on black ice.

      There might conceivably be a large splosh...

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: One major issue.

        These use magnets, on account of most* ship hulls being made of steel.

        So yes, they absolutely would work for inspection in port. Probably not while under way, but port time is really cheap compared to drydock.

        I'm also pretty sure these have been used for years, not entirely sure what's new.

        * Minehunters need not apply. Splash.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: One major issue.

        Last time I checked, Lepidodactylus lugubris didn't use magnets for adhesion. These toys do.

  7. johnfbw

    Setup time

    I can't help wondering how much setup time is required to customize each robot for Frigate type A sub class B deck 5. Probably makes sense on the bigger ships and the more consistent items (I'm thinking outer hull) but when you have 500 different ships it is probably quicker and easier to get a cheap guy checking the deck than an expensive programmer programming to analyse this type x landing craft

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Setup time

      Setup only needs to happen once per ship, possibly even per class (depending), so it's a large saving the second time around.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Setup time

        "Setup only needs to happen once per ship"

        Until they roll a rev on the software. Or the crawler hardware, for that matter.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like