Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG-SEP 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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56 August/September 2018 unmanned systems inside AIR HAZARD LOCATION Cleanup T o clean up nuclear waste at sites such as Fukushima, decontamination teams must f irst f ind out exactly where ra- dioactive materials have accumulated. Now, researchers are developing ro- bots that can f ly, swim and even crawl through pipes to map out precisely where radioac- tive waste is hiding. "Ideally, robots go where you don't want to put a person, such as a radiation hazard," said Kostas Alexis, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering and head of the Autonomous Robots Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno. "Also, robots can go where people don't have easy entry, such as a sealed site—if you wanted to put a human in there, you'd have to open it, which can be quite costly, and then follow special procedures that may put humans at risk. A robot would be comparatively low in cost and greatly reduce risks." Robots also can be much more systematic and consistent in their inspections than people, Alexis said. "You can track changes in radiation levels at the centimeter level, and know what the changes are at every point on a map, which can help you infer the potential radiation hazard much better." What has limited the use of ground robots at nuclear waste sites is that sometimes they must tra- verse narrow spaces and terrain that is not f lat—and there might be buildings on the sites with multiple stories, Alexis said. "Land rovers generally cannot deal with going from one f loor to another." FLYING UNDERGROUND Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can be used to map radiation in such hard-to-reach areas, Alexis said. "(The) ones f lying above Fukushima were an excellent example of such technology. The differ- ence with our system is that we're f lying mostly underground." Alexis and his colleagues experimented with a small UAS and successfully completed a proof of concept for a UAS that could autonomously f ly it- Photos courtesy of Kostas Alexis. Robots that fl y, swim and crawl through pipes are helping with the clean up of radioactive zones by mapping hard-to-fi nd nuclear waste. by Charles Q. Choi This prototype drone, built by the University of Nevada, can map nuclear waste storage tunnels. Charting

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