SwRI-led Team to Develop Drones for Use in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

21-Mar-2018 Intellasia | BusinessWire | 4:28 AM Print This Post

Engineers test autonomous UAS to fly inside damaged nuclear power

SAN ANTONIO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A team led by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is developing unmanned
aerial system (UAS) technology to fly into the containment vessels of
the damaged units at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station and
assess conditions. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Incorporated
(TEPCO Holdings) contracted SwRI to explore the use of UAS, or drones,
within the containment. Working with the General Robotics, Automation,
Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab at the University of Pennsylvania
(Penn) School of Engineering and Applied Science, SwRI engineers are
helping adapt small drones to autonomously operate within the

“This is a formidable challenge,” said Project Manager Dr. Monica
Garcia, a senior research engineer in SwRI’s Intelligent Systems
Division. “The conditions inside the containment at Fukushima Daiichi
are quite possibly the most challenging environment that the SwRI-Penn
team has had to address. We will be pushing the envelope in terms of the

When a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami with estimated wave
heights of 13 meters struck the power station in 2011, this one-two
punch initiated a series of events that ultimately caused three reactors
to fail. Since then, a number of ground- and underwater-based robotic
systems have been sent inside the containment. However, damage and high
radiation levels have limited access to information vital to
decontamination and decommissioning efforts.

“The team is adapting high-speed, advanced mobility drones to collect
key information about the current status,” said Technical Lead Dr.
Richard Garcia, also a senior research engineer at SwRI. “This
information will play an important role in future decontamination and
decommission efforts at Fukushima Daiichi.”

The team successfully demonstrated the core feasibility of their
approach in a test fixture at SwRI’s San Antonio campus late last year.
During Phase 1 of the project, the team also verified that the UAS
components could survive the harsh radiation conditions within the

“As robots get smaller, faster, and smarter, this is exactly the kind of
problem we want them to address,” said Dr. Vijay Kumar, the Nemirovsky
Family Dean of Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“Challenges like this are what push research in our field forward.”

Watch a video of the test fixture here: https://goo.gl/dPDpJ4.

For more information, visit unmannedsystems.swri.org
and grasp.upenn.edu
to learn more about the team.



Southwest Research Institute
Robert Crowe, 210-522-4630
[email protected]


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