University of Bristol researchers have unveiled a large semi-autonomous drone called the ARM system which could be used to provide visual and thermal monitoring of radiation after a release of nuclear material.
The system was jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Sellafield Ltd and was developed in response to requirements for radiation monitoring in event of the release of radioactive materials.
An example of the potential applications are the nuclear incident at the Fukishima Daiichi power plant in March 2011, which was hit by a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami, to help detect radiation and prevent exposure to response crews.
The ensuing hydrogen explosion from the incident, resulting from runaway corrosion of the fuel cladding, caused a significant atmospheric release of radioactive material. Most of this material was removed from the atmosphere by rainfall but contaminated a large area of land extending up to 200 km from the site. The inundation also disabled 23 of the 24 radiation monitoring stations surrounding the site, leaving disaster response teams effectively ‘blind’ to the ensuing radiation hazard.