UK’s nuclear industry is developing new software that will help robots enter an unfamiliar nuclear site and dismantle radioactive equipment, reports The Engineer.
Imaging and sensing technology specialist Createc will lead the $2 million project developing the software.
According to The Engineer, the project is funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), Innovate UK and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in partnership with Sellafield.
Sellafield is a nuclear decommissioning Site Licence Company (SLC) controlled by the NDA.
According to Matt Mellor, a director at Createc, the nuclear industry continues to use extremely large, purpose-built robotic machines to carry out decommissioning work. This could soon change with the project calling for the use of smaller, cheaper and reusable human-sized robots that can be deployed in unmapped plants.
The robots would then explore the plant, using 3D sensors and navigation software, says Mellor: “We want the robots to perceive what is going on around them, and then feed that perception directly to a human operator, using virtual reality.”
Information from the 3D sensors will be fused together using a type of algorithm known as SLAM [simultaneous localisation and mapping], says Mellor: “This is a computer perception process that looks at the data, understands how it all fits together into one 3D image, and simultaneously works out the location of all of the sensors.”
The algorithm works out not only where the robot is in its environment, but also its pose. This information can then be used to allow the human operator to control the robot’s decommissioning work using virtual reality, contends Mellor.
According to The Engineer, the project – which also includes OC Robotics, Red Engineering Design, Structure Vision, React Engineering, and UKEA – is part of the $11.8 million Integrated Innovation for Nuclear Decommissioning competition.
Image and content: The Engineer