engineering careers  Lockheed Martin showcase SPIDER – A Robotic Blimp Inspector
engineering careers  Lockheed Martin showcase SPIDER – A Robotic Blimp Inspector

Lockheed Martin’s faced a technical challenge when they developed their hybrid airships (which are as big as a football field); how could they check their ships surfaces did not have tiny pinholes in them.

Lockheed Martin believes the solution is a small robot called Self-Propelled Instrument for Damage Evaluation and Repair (SPIDER) which can crawl on the surface of the ship and conduct detailed inspections to find pinholes.

The device was developed out of the Lockheed’s Skunk Works division which also created the blimps. The robot is made from two magnetics parts that snap on the outside of the blimp’s surface, and on the inside.

This allows it to check both sides of the surface as it moves around by shining light onto the fabric. Light passing through is then detected by the other half of the robot.

Once light is detected passing through a pin-hole, the robot can then align a repair mechanism and patch the hole. All repairs are logged and reported to a central computer.


Lockheed Martin landed its first $480 million deal for a hybrid airship in March. Inspecting the 12 blimps would have been massively time-consuming without a device like SPIDER