Drones Assess Containment Vessel Damage at Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Plant
Since Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, a number of ground- and underwater-based robotic systems have been sent inside the containment vessels of the damaged units. However, damage and high radiation levels have limited access to information vital to decontamination and decommissioning efforts. Southwest Research Institute and the University of Pennsylvania are developing unmanned aerial system (UAS) technology to fly into the containment vessels at the nuclear power station and assess conditions. The team demonstrated that the UAS was capable of autonomously navigating in a confined, GPS-denied environment, avoiding obstacles along the flight path, and surviving the radiation levels expected during a mission inside of the units at Fukushima Daiichi.