27 February 2018
A small drone is to be deployed to measure radiation levels at the damaged reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The UK-developed RISER – Remote Intelligence Survey Equipment for Radiation – has already been used successfully at Sellafield, in England.
The RISER drone undergoing trials at Sellafield (Image: NDA)
The lightweight RISER drone uses lasers to self-navigate deep inside hazardous facilities where GPS signals cannot reach. It combines two separate pieces of technology: drones and radiation-mapping software. Each received research and development funding through the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and fellow government agency, Innovate UK.
Cockermouth, Cumbria-based computing and electronics engineering firm Createc’s N-Visage radiation mapping software project was boosted during its early stages in 2009 by a GBP50,000 (USD70,000) investment from the NDA’s R&D portfolio.
Three years later, the NDA joined other government organisations to invest further funds in a wide range of innovative nuclear projects. This led to the collaboration between Createc and Bedford-based aerial systems specialist Blue Bear Systems Research. This collaboration led to RISER.
The drone is less than one metre in diameter and navigates using its own internal ‘collision avoidance’ capability. Able to manoeuvre accurately inside complex industrial spaces, data is transmitted to the mapping system and clearly displayed, highlighting areas of contamination, its developers say.
The N-Visage tailor-made technology maps radiation with “pinpoint accuracy, producing a high-definition 3D picture of contamination, quickly and safely”.
After a series of on-site trials at Sellafield, RISER was put into decommissioning action. The drone has been used to collect vital information about conditions in the highly-contaminated Windscale Pile chimney. This data will be used to establish how the chimney can be cleaned out and finally dismantled.
RISER was first used inside one of the reactor buildings at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi plant several years ago, and is now set to return, mounted on the drone.