Deployment of UAV during decommissioning of a nuclear plant

Rapid advancement in technology is not only making the jobs easier in hazardous areas, but also making them better, faster, safer and more economic. We have experienced the situations after the disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors. At that time, there were no alternatives but to physically check the intensity of the radiation fields, which was an added hazard for the manpower working in the nuclear industry.

However, the scenario is changing now. The recent success of the Elios 3 drone equipped with a LiDAR sensor has marked a major milestone for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) team, enabling Sellafield Ltd., to achieve unparalleled efficiency in mapping and 3D modelling. Drone pilots have successfully completed two flight firsts on a UK nuclear site leading the way to increased safety of employees during decommissioning.

Subsequently, the team successfully flew the Elios 3 drone with a RAD (Radiation Activity Detection) dosimeter – which they hoped would allow them to map radiation hotspots in areas before other colleagues went into unused areas of the site.

Sending a drone in hazardous areas rather than an employee in the first instance reduces risk, and also saves time and money. However, it is not free from challenges. In any nuclear plant, there are thousands of pipelines and zigzag ways, thus a collision is not a very unexpected phenomenon. Also, remembering the way to come out of the plant is another difficult task for a mechanical device.

This is just the beginning. The technology will definitely improve further. It may so happen that in future the rotunda will be designed in such a way that it will be much easier for a drone to take rounds there. Let’s wait for the technology to flourish.

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