Mission Critical, Summer 2011
AUVSI's quarterly publication that highlights special topics in the unmanned systems industry.
sure of radiation — inside reactor one. Typically, nuclear reactor workers average a dose of 20 millisievers per year on the job. Hazardous steam flooded the reactor, but the robot still recorded the data and operated with no adverse effects. “We were very, very happy with how robust the design is in that environment,” Trainer says. Even with these recent successes, Trainer says iRobot does not expect to be able to use these specific PackBots and Warrior robots after their missions in Fukushima. They will have been exposed to too much radiation to be deemed safe for any other environment. IRobot wasn’t the only company to sent unmanned systems to help with relief efforts inside the Fukushima plant. QinetiQ North America sent modified versions of its Talon robot to help with containment efforts at the nuclear plant. The robot has a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive detection kit that can identify more than 7,500 environmental hazards. The newly outfitted models also have radiation-resistant cameras, GPS and sensors. This event has been Talon’s first tour in a highly radioactive environment. It can take radiation readings from inside the plant and stamp them geospatially with its GPS capabilities. TEPCO operated the Talon robot from a remote location to navigate through rubble and map out radiation levels, providing critical data to keep human responders better informed. QinetiQ also sent its Robotic Appliqué Kits, which turn Bobcat vehicles into unmanned systems in 15 minutes. In addition to vehicle equipment such as extra shovels and grapples, the unmanned technology in the kits includes cameras, night vision, thermal imagery, microphones, two-way radio systems and radiation sensors. Operators can control the unmanned Bobcats from more than a mile away. “We believe unmanned systems, such as those we have sent to Japan, can play a critical role in dealing with natural disasters by speeding cleanup efforts without putting lives at risk,” says J.D. Crouch, QinetiQ North America’s Technology solutions group president. Up in the air, Honeywell Aerospace and French company Helipse have sent unmanned aircraft to help with relief efforts. Honeywell’s T-Hawk micro air vehicle was used to check radiation levels at the plant. Both the QinetiQ ground robots and Honeywell’s aerial vehicle used radios built by Cobham to relay video from inside the plant. Helipse’s three unmanned helicopters at The whole CRASAR-IRS team at Rikuzentakata, Japan. Photo courtesy Robin Murphy, CRASAR.