Advanced systems for robots used to decommission nuclear installations are developed by Lancaster University engineers.
This software will make the robots semi-autonomous –simplifying the control by human handlers, which must de facto be done remotely- given the dangerously high levels of radioactivity in the environments where the robots operate.
This software, estimated by Lancaster University researchers, has the potential to significantly accelerate decommissioning operations / processes while maintaining human control over the robot.
The ‘package’ includes a two-arm moving robot, equipped with imaging software and a Microsoft Kinect camera. The system allows the identification, gripping and cutting of objects, such as metal pipes, often found in nuclear facilities.
“The standard for the decommissioning of nuclear installations is the direct remote control of robots by humans, which makes things very difficult for operators, especially given the complexity of decommissioning operations. Fully autonomous solutions are unlikely to be safe in the near future, so we looked at creating a semi-autonomous solution somewhere in between“,
says James Taylor, Professor of Control Engineering at the University.
“Using a single camera mounted on the robot, our system focuses on a common work in these “hard” environments; the selection and cutting of pipes. Our system allows the operator to instruct the robot to catch a pipe and cut it simply by four clicks. “
According to engineers, this system clearly performs better than the existing joystick control model, as overall robot control is retained, but the operator’s workload and operating time are significantly reduced.