Lancaster University scientists have developed a new software that makes nuclear decommissioning robots semi-autonomous.
These robots have been built to deal with hazardous nuclear waste, and as such, the new software could help speed-up decommissioning operations, while also retaining human oversight of the robot.
The new system makes use of a novel imaging software and a Microsoft Kinect camera added to a mobile robot with two manipulating arms.
The arms are essential in allowing the robotic system to identify, grasp and cut objects such as metal pipes, which are quite common in nuclear decommissioning sites.
“The standard within nuclear decommissioning is for direct human-controlled remote tele-operation of robots, which is extremely difficult for the operators particularly given the complexity of nuclear decommissioning tasks,” notes Lancaster professor James Taylor.
“Fully autonomous solutions are unlikely to be deemed safe in the near future and so we have explored creating a semi-autonomous solution that sits between the two.”
“By making use of a single camera mounted on the robot our system focuses on a common task in these harsh environments – the selecting and cutting of pipes. Our system enables an operator to instruct the robot manipulator to perform a pipe grasp and cut action with just four mouse clicks.”
According to Taylor, tests conducted so far have proven that operators making use of the new system successfully outperformed operators using the current joystick-based standard.
“It keeps the user in control of the overall robot but significantly reduces user workload and operation time.”
The scientists are now working on improving the system further by adding shielding measures for radioactive environments.
Image and content: Lancaster University