Field Service

GE Robots Do the Dirty (and Dangerous) Service Work

Industrial manufacturing giant GE has invested heavily in software to transform how service technicians do their jobs. But the company is also tapping a new crew of service techs, some with offbeat names like “The Stinger,” to relieve humans of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in field service.

Meet a few of GE’s robot workers that’ll do any job without complaint.

The Wind Turbine Climber

Image: GE
Image: GE

Wind turbines are still mostly inspected the old-fashioned way: by an employee on the ground who views the blades through a high-powered telescope. But that’s changing as robots enter the service workforce. GE and International Climbing Machines have developed a 30-pound remote-controlled robot that can scale a 300-foot turbine. The device beams a high-definition video feed of the blades to inspectors safely on the ground.

The Nuclear Reactor Swimmer

Image: GE
Image: GE

No matter how inconvenient, even the most dangerous equipment needs occasional maintenance. And it doesn’t get more dangerous (or inconvenient) than the inside of a nuclear reactor core. Enter “The Stinger.” Developed by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, the robot swims around a reactor core, performing the inspection and cleaning duties that would otherwise fall to humans.

The Humble Coworker

Image: flickr/Steve Jurvetson.
Image: flickr/Steve Jurvetson.

The ‘bots are even helping create machines bound for customer locations. Rethink Robotics’ Baxter has hit the assembly line at several GE Healthcare manufacturing sites around the world. The dexterous robot works alongside factory workers, handling the more monotonous tasks. Baxter was created with basic intelligence and “movement-based learning” that allows it to adjust on-the-fly and even change its grip.

The “Walking Truck”

GE’s robot research isn’t a new development. In the late 1960s, GE partnered with the U.S. Army on an 11-foot-tall “walking truck” that would mimic human movement. Fortunately for today’s service pros, the awkward truck didn’t catch on as the fleet of the future.

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