CMU’s snake robot inspects defunct nuclear power plant

cmu's snake robot

Necessity creates the thrust for invention.  Recently due to several massive destruction of the nuclear plant urges to invent more sophisticated robots that could operate in a feasible way so that it could ensure the proper identification of the destruction areas and make the necessary steps to recover the condition. Carnegie Mellon University’s Biorobotics Lab made an advanced step on this path. They designed a modular snake robot. Which is almost like a snake but it doesn’t bite rather it can work on abandoned nuclear power plant inspections and search and rescue operations. It can easily take images from the inner part or the pipes which was never able to find with the previous robots available for such kind of research.

This robots passed on successful test that was held at Austria’s Zwentendorf nuclear plant. This nuclear plant was established in 1970s and was never turned on for working. So there is no radiation or radioactive to worry about. Scientist ensured that this is the best testing ground for snake robot.  It has also found out a plenty multitude of tricky pipes to explore on this test site.

There is a great change in the robot invention after the massive damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the year  of 2011 by the earthquake and tsunami. Before this damage scientist already was ready to take a decision no to make such types of robots. But today they are concerned about the matter and recently we see a lot of rescue robot is invented every month or even every week.

cmu's snake robot

This snake robot is able to access the highly radioactive area and can do rescue so safely and woks in zigzag places more accurately. This robot does some challenging jobs like inspecting inside of dry storage casks, waste storage tanks, the piping within nuclear power plants or the waste management plants. The most unique facility is the swimming ability of this robot. With the swimming capabilities it can perform inspection the place is alike underwater. The fuel pool inspection or reaching locations within boiling water reactors are now not a big deal where the snake robot is present. This robot can squeeze its body through a small opening to get access to tanks or storage casks. This enables the facilities of remote visual inspection (RVI) or nondestructive testing (NDE) without the need to cut into the equipment or to open the radioactive cask. It can access the places where others failed to enter.

It has a camera and LEDs on the head and can crawl in 15 cm (6 inch) wide steam pipes. It is 2 inches ( 5cm ) in diameter and 37 inch (97 cm) long. It has 16 joints that allow to move like a snake.  It is providing the operator a clear view of the inner part. It moves like snake movement and rolling it in a corkscrew pattern. This enables the video feed to systematically get corrected with the help of software to align with gravity.

Robotics Professor Howie Choset says after the successful mock search and rescue mission that, “Our robot can go places people can’t , particularly in areas of power plants that are radioactively contaminated.” He also mentioned that,” It can go up and around multiple bends, something you can’t do with a conventional bore scope, a flexible tube that can only be pushed through a pipe like a wet noodle.”  So it is just a new beginning by a friendly snake .


Source: CMU Biorobotics Lab