National Centre for Nuclear Robotics
Radiological characterisation is vital during the decommissioning of nuclear installations. It involves detecting and labelling radiation levels, waste materials and contaminants, and determining other parameters (eg. thermal and chemical). This data is then intelligently attached to 3D scene models.
Nuclear waste must be dealt with safely. Robots are being developed to autonomously carry out complex tasks (perceiving, grasping, cutting and manipulating waste). Once sorted, radioactive material can then be stored safely or disposed of appropriately, all through the actions of remotely controlled robots.
A large part of nuclear decommissioning involves dismantling radiation environments (eg. facilities contaminated by plutonium dust). Robots are needed to navigate enclosed spaces and pull apart contaminated pipes, vessels and steelwork. Currently this work is done manually by humans in air-fed suits.
Remotely-operated vehicles are being developed to access, inspect and map complex underwater nuclear sites, for when the deployment of a manned vehicle is considered too hazardous.
UAV based site monitoring
Drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles) reduce the need for human entry into radioactive environments. Research is ongoing to develop the next generation of UAVs. These will detect radiation levels both during routine monitoring and after emergencies.