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Technical Paper

Snake-Arm Robots: A New Approach to Aircraft Assembly

This paper describes work being conducted by OC Robotics and Airbus to develop snake-arm robot technology suitable for conducting automated inspection and assembly tasks within wing boxes. The composite, single skin construction of aircraft structures presents new challenges for robotic assembly. During box close-out it is necessary for aircraft fitters to climb into the wing box through a small access panel and use manual or power tools to perform a variety of tasks. These manual interventions give rise to a number of health and safety concerns. Snake-arm robots provide a means to replace manual procedures by delivering the required tools to all areas of the wing box. The advantages of automating in-wing processes will be discussed. This paper presents early stage results of the demonstration snake-arm robot and outlines expectations for future development.