Take the tiny robot, a little bigger
than a Matchbox car, used to inspect
working engines. Using computer
vision and a variety of AI techniques,
the bot can look for cracks inside plane
engines by riding on top of a slowly
moving fan blade.
Similar technology can be attached
to a drone to find corrosion on the
200-foot-high flare stacks that burn
off excess gas released at oil and gas
To develop and work with these systems, GE researchers need to understand both
the physics of the machines and the AI algorithms.
“This is a place where you will have a molecular biologist sitting with a machine-
learning expert or a controls-theory person sitting with someone who knows
about materials science,” says Mark Grabb, GE Global Research’s technology
director for analytics. “That type of collaboration is very powerful, but there is
nothing more powerful than having that same information in the same brain; it’s
Consider the brain of Matt Nielsen, who joined GE Global Research in 1998 after
earning a PhD in physics. Nielsen developed photonics and worked on electric-
vehicle software before moving fully to the company’s digital side in 2015. Today, he
GE uses AI to create continuously updating digital representations of its machines,
such as this gas turbine, the 9HA, at a plant in Belfort, France.