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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Disaster Robots Needed

After the slow start the first rescue and firefighting robots from USA and Germany are on its way to Japan to assist rescue teams especially at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. According to the Japanese government the crisis might be continue for weeks or months before the damaged reactors will be under control. 

In the light of the emergency robot disaster in Japan the need of a new research and development strategy for robotics is obvious. When human workers in high-tech Japan are the best solution do the dirty and dangerous job, there must be something wrong. After billions of yen, dollar and euro invested in robotics research and prototyping isn't it time again to rethink needs, goals and funding of robotics research and development? The transfer of scientific knowledge into robotic solutions for the safety and benefit of citizens and society is urgent. The risk of natural and nuclear disasters remains high and might even increase by urbanization, climate change and technological complexity.

Demand of Disaster Robots
Urbanization continues as the construction of new nuclear power plants all over the world. According to the 2010 World Disasters Report (WDR) over half the world’s population now live in cities for the first time and more people than ever before live in slums. Urban poverty and disaster risk are often closely intertwined and the links between urban poverty and disaster risk will be increased by climate change.
The report states that the root cause of why so many people are affected by urban disasters is that a billion people live in poor-quality homes on dangerous sites with no hazard-reducing infrastructure and no services. In any given year, over 50,000 people can die as a result of earthquakes and 100 million can be affected by floods and the worst-affected are most often vulnerable city dwellers.

Disaster Robots of the Future 
Credit: WMR, University of Warwick
Next generation rescue robot solution will heavily depend on the scientific knowledge and engineering creativity of a new generation robotics students, who think out-of-the-box, innovate and share their findings via open and social media. They compete globally with great ambitions and much fun, laying the ground for smarter and more competitive technology and successful businesses.

Robocup Rescue World Champions 
One example of ambition and creativity are the students from the Warwik Mobile Robotics Group at the University of Warwick, UK. Their ambition for the 2011 European Robocup Rescue competition in Magdeburg, Germany, are high with the goal of retaining the European championship and to qualify for and enter the Robocup Rescue World Championships 2011.
To win again the team has improved the six tracks rescue robot, that won the European rescue championship at RoboCup in Germany last year, with the motion controller Kinect that saves significant sums compared with Lidar laser sensors. If they can beat their competitors with the Xbox add-on, will an exciting challenge.
Check out the presentation video below.


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The RoboCupRescue Robot League is an international league of teams with one objective: develop and demonstrate advanced robotic capabilities for emergency responders using annual competitions to evaluate, and teaching camps to disseminate, best-in-class robotic solutions.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

US Rescue Robots for Japan Recovery

Credit: QinetiQ NA

20 days after the natural and nuclear disaster in Japan the Japanese government has now accepted disaster robots from abroad to assist Japan´s reponse teams to accomplish critical and complex recovery tasks at a safer distance from hazardous debris and other dangerous conditions.

US Robots bound for Japan

The first rescue robots have already been shipped from USA and will arrive in Japan the next days. After iRobots, sending four robots and six experts to Japan,  QinetiQ North America announced on March 28, it will provide unmanned vehicle equipment and associated training to aid in Japan’s natural disaster recovery efforts. The equipment being staged in Japan for rapid, on-call deployment includes QinetiQ North America’s Robotic Appliqué Kits, which turn Bobcat loaders into unmanned vehicles in just 15 minutes. The kits permit remote operation of all 70 Bobcat vehicle attachments, such as shovels, buckets, grapples, tree cutters and tools to break through walls and doors. The unmanned Bobcat loaders include seven cameras, night vision, thermal imagers, microphones, two-way radio systems and radiation sensors, and can be operated from more than a mile away to safely remove rubble and debris, dig up buried objects and carry smaller equipment.


Credit: QinetiQ NA, TALON

QinetiQ North America is also staging TALON and Dragon Runner robots in Japan in the event they are needed. TALON robots have previously withstood rigorous deployment and twice daily decontamination at Ground Zero. The TALON robots are equipped with CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive) detection kits that can identify more than 7,500 environmental hazards including toxic industrial chemicals, volatile gases, radiation and explosive risks, as well as temperature and air quality indicators. The TALON robots provide night vision and sound and sensing capabilities from up to 1,000 meters away.
Credit: QinetiQ NA, Dragon Runner
QinetiQ North America’s lightweight Dragon Runner robots, designed for use in small spaces, will be available for investigating rubble piles, trenches, culverts and tunnels. Thermal cameras and sound sensors on the Dragon Runners can provide data from up to 800 meters away, permitting the robot’s “eyes and ears” to serve in spaces too small or dangerous for human access. In addition to the unmanned equipment, a team of QinetiQ North America technical experts will provide training and support to Japan’s disaster response personnel.


About QinetiQ North America
QinetiQ North America delivers world-class technology, responsive services, and innovative solutions for global markets, focusing on US government and commercial customers. More than 6,000 QinetiQ North America engineers, scientists and other professionals deliver high quality products and services that leverage detailed mission knowledge and proven, reliable tools and methodologies to meet the rapidly changing demands of national defense, homeland security and information assurance customers. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, QinetiQ North America had annual revenues of more than $1 billion in the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2010. QinetiQ North America is part of QinetiQ Group PLC (LSE:QQ). For more information, please visit www.QinetiQ-NA.com.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

World's Largest Robot for Swedish Final Nuclear Repository

In 2025 robots and unmanned deposition machine Magne will take over the Swedish Final Nuclear Repository 400 meter under the ground of  Forsmark, Östhammar Municipality, according to plans from the
Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB). On 16 March 2011, SKB   submitted applications to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority  (SSM) and to the Environmental Court to build the final repository for the 12,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel the nuclear power industry in Sweden needs to manage.

Unmanned Nuclear Waste Vehicle Magne

Credit: SKB
Meanwhile the probably world's largest fully automated robot for nuclear waste handling Magne, made by German Herbst GmbH, is tested 400 meter under ground at the Aspo Laboratory near Oskarshamns Nuclear Power Plant. It is the world wide first prototype robot for the emplacement of spent nuclear fuel.
In the final repository for both operation of the tunnels and deposit of the capsules the four-wheeled 100 ton fully loaded Unmanned Underground Vehicle (UUGV) will be used to align the canister in vertical position and lower it into the bentonite covered deposition hole. Unlike its predecessor the new deposition machine is not on rails, but on rubber tires. The nuclear waste UUGV can be moved between different tunnels in the repository and then it's easier with rubber wheels than if running on rails.

Security
Magne is equipped with both fire extinguishers and an automatic fire-extinguishing systems. Would Magne need emergency braking or stopped immediately during the deposition is done with the red emergency stop buttons in each corner. The machine can always be stopped within one meter on the emergency brakes when the speed is limited to 5 km / h (walking pace). To avoid puncture tires are filled with plastic foam. If the diesel engine would fail, the deposit still terminated by a built-in electric motor which is connected by cable
to the tunnel's power system. The deposit may also be supported in which made at any time and the capsule returned to the transfer station. All equipment, except vision cameras, can also be addressed in the shielded environment of a breakdown.

Autonomous operation and radiation shielding 

Navigation in the tunnels are of the same type of laser-based control systems used for different types of mining vehicles. The system reads the tunnel contour, learns the route and will be run independently of the tunnel. All logic is built into the machine and monitoring the vehicle via a wireless security network. As in the case of nuclear activity is of course the requirements for safety extra high. All management is also fully shielded.

The navigation system is developed by the Finnish company Navitec Systems Oy. The machine's control system consists of CAN-bus-based modules and takes care of all the measurements and controls of the machine. At the top of the control system hierarchy there is a navigation system, which is responsible for driving the machine automatically onto the deposition hole for lowering the canister into the hole. The navigation system is based on the InfraFREE navigation system developed by Navitec Systems Ltd. for Sandvik Mining and Construction Ltd.


$ 19 Billion Nuclear Power Reactors Cost in Sweden
According to latest cost calculations, submitted by SKB to the Radiation Safety Authority, total costs are estimated to SEK 123 billion (USD 19,2) in current monetary value. The calculations have been based on 50 to 60 years operating time for nuclear power reactors. Approximately SEK 31 billion have already been spent on building and operation of existing facilities as well as on planning facilities for management and disposal including research and development.

Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB)

The Swedish nuclear power companies jointly established SKB in the 1970s. SKB’s assignment is to manage and dispose of all radioactive waste from Swedish nuclear power plants in such a way as to secure maximum safety for human beings and the environment. The assignment is so extensive that SKB sees it as one of Sweden's biggest environmental-protection projects 
An interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel (Clab) is near Oskarshamn. A final repository for short-lived radioactive waste (SFR) in Forsmark. Safe transport of the radioactive waste from nuclear power plants to the storage facilities is an important part of the system. Transport is by sea using the vessel M/S Sigyn. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rescue Robots & Systems Research in Japan

The Great Hanshin earthquake (Kobe earthquake), in 1995- a massive scale earthquake of magnitude 9.0, which had approximately 6,434 fatalities, and caused approximately ten trillion yen ($100 billion) in damage, 2.5% of Japan's GDP, made serious weaknesses in the Japanese earthquake disaster preventions system visible. At that time the Kobe earthquake was Japan's worst earthquake in the 20th century after the Great Kantō earthquake (M 7.9) in 1923, which claimed 140,000 lives. 

After the 1995 earthquake disaster the government sponsored the Special Measure Law on Earthquake Disaster Prevention to promote a comprehensive national policy on earthquake disaster prevention and to improve communication and application of earthquake research results to the general public and disaster prevention organizations. The Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, a special governmental organization attached to the Prime Minister's office (now belongs to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology), was established in accordance with this law.

Earthquake Research 2006-2011
The Special Project for Earthquake Disaster Mitigation in Urban Areas (2002-2006) conducted by the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo. The project revealed the detailed geometry of the subducted Philippine Sea plate (PSP) beneath the Tokyo Metropolitan area and improved information needed for seismic hazards analyses of the largest urban centers. In 2007 the Special Project for Earthquake Disaster Mitigation in Tokyo Metropolitan Area started focusing at  the vertical proximity of the PSP down going lithospheric plate and the risks for the greater Tokyo urban region that has a population of 42 million and is the center of approximately 40 % of the nation's activities. A M 7 or greater (M 7+) earthquake in this region at present has high potential to produce devastating loss of life and property with even greater global economic repercussions. The Central Disaster Management Council of Japan estimated that a great earthquake in the region might cause 11,000 fatalities and 112 trillion yen (1 trillion US$) economic loss. The Earthquake Research Committee of Japan estimated a probability of 70 % in 30 years for a great earthquake in this region. 

Rescue Robots & Systems Research Projects
In  2002 the DDT Special Project for Earthquake Disaster Mitigation in Urban Areas was launched as one of the urban renewal projects by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The project  was carried out in Japan´s fiscal years 2002-2006 by nationwide researchers and organized by International Research System Institute. The objective of the project was to develop practical technologies related to robotics as a counter measurement against earthquake disasters, and include robots, intelligent sensors, information equipment, and human interfaces that support emergency responses such as urban search and rescue, particularly victim search, information gathering and communication. Typical technologies are teleoperated robots for victim search in hazardous disaster areas, and robotic systems with distributed sensors for gathering disaster information to support human decision making. The research budget was approx. 400 million JPY a year ($ 5million) and 33 research groups with more than 100 researchers have been involved in developing  Aerial Robot Systems, Information Infrastructure Systems, Rubble Robot System and On-Rubble Robot System. The project is well documented in Rescue Robotics - DDT Project on Robots and Systems for Urban Search and Rescue, by Prof. Satoshi Tadokoro, Tōhoku Univ. (Ed.) presenting the most significant robotic systems and technologies such as serpentine robots, tracked vehicles, intelligent human interface and data processing, as well as analysing and verifying the results of experiments. 


 The largest rescue robot "T-52 ENRYU"
Credit: tsmuk, Enryu 53
In 2004 robot company tmsuk, located  in Munakata-City, Fukuoka launched the "T-52 Enryu"  developed as a large-scale rescue robot for use at disaster sites. "T-52 Enryu" was one of the world's largest rescue robots, measures approximately 3.45 m in height and 2.4 m in width and weighs 5 ton. Each arm, having eight joints, can lift 500 kg (1 ton with both arms). It is operated in two modes: one by an operator riding in the robot and the other by remote operation by master-slave control and joystick control for perilous situations in which rescuers cannot gain access to victims because of the risk of secondary disaster. 
T-53 Enryu
In 2007 the rescue robot T-53 Enryu was released for rescue work at disastrous places where rescue workers cannot go into. T-53 Enryu was the 3rd generation tmsuk rescue robot. tmsuk had worked closely with national fire department to develop T-53 Enryu, which thus has been embedded with much desired functions. T-53 Enryu is made more compact than the previous rescue machines. It has maximized maneuverability for emergency operations. Furthermore, the synchronous robot arm systems have sophisticated motion control capabilities of operators. In 2008 the T-53 Enryu has participated in recovery efforts during the earthquake in Kashiwazaki City, Niigata. Check out the demonstration video below. 

UAV Shades Qatar World Cup 2022

BBC video screencap: UAV Cloud 

Concerns about the summer heat up to 50C at the 2022 Qatar World Cup for players and fans have challenged engineering imagination and creativity. One idea recently launched is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) filled with helium and built of light carbon material, powered by four solar-powered engines for maneuvering between the Qatar World Cup stadium and the sun to provide shade. The idea was presented by Saud Abdul Ghani, head of the mechanical and industrial engineering department at Qatar university, BBC reports. The "artificial cloud" could be flown over the stadium by remote control to provide shade to players and  spectators.
The UAV cloud hovers like a remotely controlled helicopter over the football ground, shielding it from direct sunlight and providing a favorable climatic environment. The UAV is also programmed to continuously change its shielding position according to the prevailing east-to-west path of the sun. Commercial models, Ghani said, could be used at beaches and car parks, perhaps even fetched by mobile phones.

Qatar Camel Race Robot Jockeys
It's not the first time Qatar robotic ideas make headlines. In 2005 the first successful official race featuring robotic jockeys was conducted in Qatar after the Emir of Qatar, Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, banned child jockeys and directed that, by 2007, all camel races would be directed by robotic jockeys. Initially, the idea of using robots was proposed by the Government of Qatar, and as a result, the RAQBI Center located at Al Shahaniya, 30 Kms from Doha city. was founded. The different models allow camel owners to remotely whip and steer the camels from the sidelines and can also be equipped with GPS and a heart-rate monitor to assess performance. However, using electric shocks on a camel is not permitted during races and anyone caught doing so can face up to three months in prison.
Shock Jockeys
In January 2011 press reported Dubai Police arrested three men for allegedly selling robotic camel jockeys with an illegal electric shock feature. The suspects were reportedly selling their "shock jockeys" for up to $ 8000. The cost of an ordinary robotic camel jockey is between $ 220-320.

CMU Qatar Robotics 
In 2004 at the invitation of Qatar Foundation, Carnegie Mellon joined Education City, located in Doha, a unique center for scholarship and research for students from Qatar and 30 different countries. Carnegie Mellon Qatar offers undergraduate programs in business administration, computer science and information systems including robotics.
The Qatar Robotic Surgery Centre, QRSC,  started  in 2009 has become one of the leading surgical training centres in the region by improving the quality of surgical care in Qatar. QRSC, a partnership between Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), provides robotic and non-robotic minimally invasive surgery training. QRSC is a collaboration with Imperial College London, and provides three Da Vinci-brand medical robots, a simulation operating theatre and a "tele-mentoring" suite.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Robots in Nuclear Decommissioning

Credit: NDA - Brokk 40
According to a OECD report from the Nuclear Energy Agency, (NEA) Co-operative Programme on Decommissioning (CPD), 2006, the the use of industrial robots may have a limited application in decommissioning, in contrary to earlier expectations that robotic methods would be extensively used in the dismantling of radioactive components, especially in the high radiation areas in fuel facilities. Experience showed that industrial robots may have a limited applicability in decommissioning, especially due to the non-repetitive tasks that have to be performed in the unstructured and continuously changing environment that characterizes decommissioning work. More emphasis is therefore put in the optimization of proven, commonly available industrial techniques.
Instead of concentrating on totally remote/robotic methods, the approach seems to be developing to use long handled tools with shielding or to create a less hostile environment by identifying and removing the high sources of radiation as early as possible.
The reports refers to three projects with robot manipulators that proved to be expensive to build, as well as complicated and expensive to maintain and service. Successful use is reported by the British Nuclear Fuels plc ( BNFL) Sellafield B204 Primary Separation Plant for the removal of stainless steel hulls from a storage silo using a remotely operated loading vehicle.
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The mission of the NEA is to assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for the safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. To achieve this, the NEA works as a forum for sharing information and experience and promoting international co-operation; a centre of excellence which helps member countries to pool and maintain their technical expertise and a vehicle for facilitating policy analyses and developing consensus based on its technical work.

Decommissioning Scenario for Fukushima Dai-ichi

Credit: TEPCO - Fukushima Dai-ichi
Two weeks after the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that damaged the nuclear power plant Fukushima Dai-ichi the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric have mentioned the likely decommission of the nuclear plant when the current crisis has been overcome.

Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants

The process of decommissioning of a nuclear facilities is regulated and includes many administrative and technical actions such as all clean-up of radioactivity and progressive demolition of the plant. Once a facility is decommissioned, there should no longer be any danger of a radioactive accident or to any persons visiting it. After a facility has been completely decommissioned it is released from regulatory control, and the licensee of the plant no longer has responsibility for its nuclear safety. 
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has defined three options for decommissioning, the definitions of which have been internationally adopted: Immediate Dismantling (Early Site Release/DECON in the US), Safe Enclosure (SAFSTOR) or Entombment (ENTOMB).

According to the
World Nuclear Association to date, about 80 commercial power reactors, 45 experimental or prototype reactors, over 250 research reactors and a number of fuel cycle facilities, have been retired from operation. Some of these have been fully dismantled. Most parts of a nuclear power plant do not become radioactive, or are contaminated at only very low levels. Most of the metal can be recycled. Proven techniques and equipment are available to dismantle nuclear facilities safely and these have now been well demonstrated in several parts of the world. Decommissioning costs for nuclear power plants, including disposal of associated wastes, are reducing and contribute only a small fraction of the total cost of electricity generation. Some examples of decommissioning are folowing below. 


Safe Enclosure Japan: The Tōkai Nuclear Power Plant (1966-2018) 
One of the first decommissioning projects in Japan was the Tōkai Nuclear Power Plant, the first nuclear power plant in Japan, built in the early 1960s to a 160 MWe British Magnox design, and generated power from 1966 until it was decommissioned in 1998. The plant has passed decommissioning phase SAFSTOR (1998-1999) and DECON will end in 2018. The decommissioning cost was estimated to yen 93 Billion (Euro 660 Million) by the OECD in 2003. JPY 35 billion for dismantling and JPY 58 billion for waste treatment which will include the graphite moderator (which escalates the cost significantly).

Safe Enclosure USA: Three Mile Island (1979-2036)
Credit: CMU 
After the Three Mile Island, Unit 2 (TMI-2) accident on March 28, 1979, which resulted in severe damage to the reactor core, TMI-2 has been in a non-operating status since that time. The licensee conducted a substantial program to defuel the reactor vessel and decontaminate the facility. All spent fuel has been removed except for some debris in the reactor coolant system.
The first robotics vehicle to enter the basement of Three Mile Island after the meltdown, was Remote Reconnaissance Robot 1983 developed by CMU roboticist William L. ''Red'' Whittaker. The robot worked four years to survey and clean up the flooded basement. The CoreSampler, 1984, was a remote vehicle drilling core samples from the walls of the TMI basement to determine the depth and severity of radioactive material that soaked into the concrete at the site.
The plant defueling was completed in April 1990. The removed fuel is currently in storage at Idaho National Laboratory, and the U.S. Department of Energy has taken title and possession of the fuel. TMI-2 has been defueled and decontaminated to the extent the plant is in a safe, inherently stable condition suitable for long-term management. This long-term management condition is termed post-defueling monitored storage, which was approved in 1993. There is no significant dismantlement underway. The plant shares equipment with the operating TMI - Unit 1. TMI-1 was sold to AmerGen (now Exelon) in 1999. GPU Nuclear retains the license for TMI-2 and is owned by FirstEnergy Corp. GPU contracts with Exelon for maintenance and surveillance activities. The licensee plans to actively decommission TMI-2 in parallel with the decommissioning of TMI-1. The current radiological decommissioning cost estimate is $836.9 million. The current amount in the decommissioning trust fund is $576.8 million, as of December 31, 2009. Estimated Date For Closure: 12/31/2036.
Entombment USSR/Ukraine: Chernobyl Case (1986 - 2065)
Credit: Wikipedia - Chernobyl
The worst nuclear power plant accident in history, the only one classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale, is the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian SSR (now Ukraine). After a 1991 fire in Reactor 2, this reactor was taken offline, and decommissioned in 1996.

First in 1999, after the End of the Cold War, reconnaissance robot Pioneer entered the radiated plant for structural analysis of the Unit 4 reactor building. Even this robot was developed by CMU roboticist William L. ''Red'' Whittaker and his company RedZone Robotics. The robot was a teleoperated mobile robot for deploying sensor and sampling payloads, with a mapper for creating photorealistic 3D models of the building interior, a coreborer for cutting and retrieving samples of structural materials, and a suite of radiation and other environmental sensors.
Credit: CMU/RedZone Pioneer

Reactor 3 was switched off in 2000 to close the plant. In early 2002 the European Commission paid the first installment of its promised €40m additional Shelter Fund. The fund was paid in four installments from 2001–2004. It helped to support the decommissioning work at the site.

In 1997 the Chernobyl Shelter Fund was established at the Denver 23rd G8 summit to finance the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP). The plan calls for transforming the site into an ecologically safe condition by means of stabilization of the sarcophagus followed by construction of a New Safe Confinement (NSC). While the original cost estimate for the SIP was US$768 million, the 2006 estimate was $1.2 billion. The SIP is being managed by a consortium of Bechtel, Battelle, and Electricité de France, and conceptual design for the NSC consists of a movable arch, constructed away from the shelter to avoid high radiation, to be slid over the sarcophagus.
New Safe Confinement 2013
On 7 January 2010, the Ukrainian Government passed a state law to transform the Chernobyl shelter facility into an environmentally safe system in order to protect the surroundings from radiation. The programme will be executed in four stages. In the first stage, nuclear fuel will be moved to a storage facility, which will be completed by 2013. In the second stage which will be completed by 2025, all the reactors will be deactivated. The third stage involves maintaining the reactors until radiation drops to an acceptable level and is envisaged to be completed by 2045. The fourth and the final stage involves dismantling the reactors and clearing the site, which is expected to be completed by 2065.

Novarka is a French consortium for the construction of the new safe confinement over the Chernobyl shelter. Members of the consortium are Vinci, Bouygues (France), Nukem (Germany/UK), Hochtief (Germany) and some Ukrainian companies. In 2007 the Ukrainian authorities announced Novarka as winner of the $ 453 Million contract. Check the video animation below.



Demolition Robots at Dounreay plant, UK 
Credit: NDA - Brokk 40
In the UK robots have been used to take over from human staff to dismantle the uranium fuel reprocessing plant at Dounreay. The plant is too contaminated with radiation for human workers to carry out the work, so the site has turned to specialist demolition firm Brokk to supply the remotely-operated equipment that can work inside cells and a pond. Staff are drilling through the concrete that surrounds the plant to let the electric powered demolition robots move inside and begin dismantling it. The robots which are mounted on tracks like a construction excavator have been fitted with specially-designed tools.

Fukushima Dai-ichi 2011-20??
Depending on further crisis development and the final status of nuclear reactors at the power plant the decommissioning process and the recovering of the surroundings will take many years and cost billions of yen. Fukushimas will forever be remembered with the nuclear disaster caused by the earthquake and devastating tsunami on March 11, 2011. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Remote Inspection robot from Canada

Inuktun Services Ltd. (ISL), founded in 1989 and located in Nanaimo, BC, Canada, designs and manufactures Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and modular robotic systems for use in confined spaces and hazardous such as nuclear power plants.  Inuktun's remote inspection equipment is used extensively in nuclear plant outages, maintenance and emergency situations. Cameras and crawlers are used in and around reactors, steam generators and other plant infrastructure to quickly identify and evaluate problems or trouble areas.
Credit: Induktun, Versatrax 450 TTC
The Versatrax 450™ TTC is designed for hazardous environments and perfectly suited for a wide range of applications where remote handling and inspection are required. With the crawler, tether reel and system controller all integrated into Pelican® cases, the portable Versatrax 450™ TTC can be deployed in a matter of minutes, allowing you to inspect, capture, and safely remove dangerous materials from any site faster than by conventional means.

Credit: Inuktun, Versatrax 300
The Versatrax 300 is the solution to long-range pipe inspection challenges.  Able to inspect more than a mile of pipe in a single run, the VT300 includes 3 onboard video cameras, multiple sensor options, and is operable in pipe as small as 12in / 300mm internal diameter.


European Robotics Forum 2011 - Final Agenda Online

Final agenda & workshop descriptions for European Robotics Forum in Västerås (6-8 April, 2011) is now online. You can now see the final agenda and the full descriptions of all the workshops being offered at the European Robotics Forum. More than 200 roboticists have already registered for this important community meeting which will take place at the Aros Congress Centre, in Västerås, Sweden on 6-8 April, 2011. The registration deadline is March 27th, 2011.

Robotland will attend and contribute with presentations at two workshops:
Promoting European Robotics – plans, ideas and projects, 7 April 2011, 11:00 – 12:30 a.m
Wolfgang Heller will present Global Robotics Brain 2.0, a new tool for robotics intelligence and promotion. Started in 2005 Global Robotics Brain is one of the world’s largest mind maps about robotics and a unique entry to the world of robotics for students, researchers and industry. It provides a new and comprehensive overview of robotics R&D, industry and media in more than 50 countries. Plans for version 3.0 will be presented.

Pioneered in Europe, commercialised elsewhere: domestic service robots in the past, present and future, 8 April 2011, 08:30 – 10:00 a.m.
The workshop will start with short (10 min.) statements of the invited speakers, the remaining time will be used for discussion with the audience. Wolfgang Heller will talk about "Smart Robots don´t fool Smarter Consumers - Rethinking Domestic Service Robots in the Age of Social Media Intelligence". Agenda

New Mini Spy Robot from iRobot

Credit: iRobot, 110 FirstLook
iRobot has released a new small ground robot called iRobot 110 FirstLook, that provides hasty situational awareness, performs persistent observation and investigates confined spaces. FirstLook is ideal for a range of infantry missions and special operations, including building clearing, raids and other close-in scenarios. It is

The robot can be used for situational awareness in a wide range of mission environments, maintain a persistent presence for more than six hours, can investigate tunnels, ditches, culverts and other hard-to-access places.

The robot weighs less than 2,2 kg and is only 25 cm long, 23 cm wide and 10 cm tall. The robot is throwable and survives 4,5 meter drops onto concrete and is waterproof to 90 cm. It is maneuverable in a variety of environments. The robot climbs steps up to 20 cm high, overcomes curbs and other obstacles, turns in place and self-rights when flipped over. FirstLook operates efficiently in challenging conditions. The robot gets more than 6 hours of runtime on a typical mission and up to 10 hours performing stationary video monitoring. The robot uses IR illumination to enhance low light and no light operations. Four built-in cameras with configurable video compression provide high situational awareness, allowing observation points in front of, behind and on both sides of the robot. The robot also includes twoway audio communication. The wrist-mounted, touchscreen operator control unit (OCU) is battery-powered and includes a built-in radio. Digital mesh networking allows multiple FirstLook robots to relay messages over greater distances, increasing Line of Sight and Non-Line of Sight capabilities. The robot offers multiple public and military radio band configurations.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Water Cannon Robots Arrive at Fukushima Dai 1

The Cooling Fight at Fukushima Dai 1 continues. Personnel from Japan's Self-Defense Forces, the Tokyo Fire Department, and other agencies are spraying water on the plant's No.3 and 4 reactors, which lost the ability to cool storage pools containing spent nuclear fuel rods.

Water Cannon Robot from Australia
NHK reports that a remote-controlled high-powered water cannon truck has arrived from Australia at  Yokota Air Base on Tuesday following a request by the United States. The water cannon robot can shoot 150 liters of water per second at a target 150 meters away. It can also operate unmanned for 2 to 3 days while pumping seawater. The robot, owned by US contractor Bechtel Corporation, the largest engineering company in the United States, was being flown from Perth by an RAAF Hercules transport. The robot sprayer will probably be put to work in the reactor building in the most dangerous condition, No 4. The robot will enable them to remotely see the damaged pool for the first time and put water into it with precision.

62 Meter Concrete Pump from China

Credit: Sany Group
Chinese Sany Group, the world’s largest concrete machinery manufacturer and among the top 50 global construction machinery manufacturers, has announced the shipment of its 62 meter concrete pump to Fukushima free of charge to help Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEP) fight against the current crises. The equipment has left Sany head quarter in Changsha and is now heading towards Shanghai. It is estimated that the concrete pump will arrive in Japan on next Wednesday. According to Guinness World Records Sany boasts the longest boom for a truck-mounted concrete pump: 71.535 meters.

According to IEEE Spectrum the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission told a congressional committee on Thursday, that building No. 4's storage pool had lost all its water, leaving its spent fuel exposed to the air. On Friday the Los Angeles Times reported that the No. 4 pool had either been cracked or breached during the earthquake, causing water to drain away. However, TEPCO officials have contradicted these statements.

New US Defense Robots Program

Credit: DARPA
US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA has launched a new robotics program aimed at creating machines to bolster military and defense activities and help human U.S. military personnel work more effectively. 
The new Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program seeks to create and demonstrate significant scientific and engineering advances in robot mobility and manipulation capability.  If successful, M3 will significantly improve robot capabilities through new approaches to engineering  better design tools, fabrication methods and control algorithms. 
M3 research partners include Carnegie Mellon University, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of California Santa Cruz, Cornell, Harvard, Tufts, and University of California, Berkeley, Case Western Reserve, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Tekrona, University of California at Santa Barbara, University of Florida's Institute of Human and Machine Cognition, Raytheon, Vecna Technologies and Boston Dynamics. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Concrete Pumping Robot at Fukushima

More than 100 Japanese firefighters and a dozen firefighting trucks including the “Super Pumper,” are working to cool down the damaged Fukushima Dai-1 nuclear reactors. But the situation at the nuclear power plant remains very serious and new strategies are considered to stop nuclear fire and radiation. According to a CNN report first tests are now planned to pump concrete into the plant's No. 4 reactor spent nuclear fuel pool and containment vessel. This means high performance concrete pumps, a sophisticated delivery line system, non-ballasted stationary booms and demanding concrete mixtures. Putzmeister, the German manufacturer of concrete pumps, and the largest in its field, is now at Fukushima to help. The company has experience from the Chernobyl disaster and is the world record holder pumping concrete to a height of more than 700 m at Burj Khalifa Tower, currently the tallest man-made structure ever built.

Concrete Spraying Robots at Chernobyl
Credit: Putzmeister - Chernobyl 1986
In 1986 more than 10 pumps of four different manufacturer were used to encapsulate the damage reactor at Chernobyl as fast as possible. In total, approx. 76.450 cubic meter  (100.000 cubic yards) were pumped to protect the damaged reactor block 4. The longest booms and fastest pumps were from Putzmeister, reacting faster with special equipment like lead shields, radio and video remote controll etc. At Chernobyl only two hours' exposure was allowed per worker.  Each worker had a radiation counter in his pocket and could leave whenever he felt endangered. A rest-camp over 120 km away was set up for the operators to ensure day and night operation. About 100 trained operators were working at the site day and night. 

Credit: Putzmeister M52
The Putzmeister M52 had a 150 cubic meter per hour capacity, 360 HP engine and lead lined cab. The compact five section Multi-Z-boom was fully autiomatic, centraly lubricated, all radio and video controlled, including S-type harsh mix hopper to match most difficult concrete mixes. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Disaster Robot Monitors at Fukushima Dai-ichi plant

Credit: Mitsui
The first Japanese Disaster Monitoring Robot, Monirobo ("Monitoring Robot"), arrived at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant on Wedsnday March 17 according to Asahi Shimbun report.
The Monirobo was developed by Mitsui and Nuclear Safety Technology Centre in association with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, METI, after the Tokaimura nuclear accident in 1999 in which two workers died.
Monirobo is designed to operate at radiation levels too high for humans. The 1.5-metre and 600 kg heavy robot runs on a pair of caterpillar tracks with a speed of 2.4 km/hr. It has a manipulator arm for removing obstacles and collecting samples. Sensors include a radiation detector, 3D camera system and temperature and humidity sensors. It can be operated remotely from a distance of about one km. The robot carries heavy shielding to protect electronics, especially cameras, of the effects of radiation.
Environmental radioactivity level by prefecture are available via Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, MEXT.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nuclear Disaster Robot Disaster 2011 + update 2013

Update 2013: The Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc. (MRI) invites the global robotics community to upgrade and to develop a technical catalog about robotic technologies to move and investigate inside nuclear reactor buildings, namely
1) a flight technology to enable access to the top floor of the nuclear reactor building and
2) a technology to move around and conduct investigations under water in a flooded reactor building.
MRI is entrusted from the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy in conducting Machine/Equipment Development for Decommissioning the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Planth.

On December 21, 2011, Government-TEPCO Council on Mid and Long Term Response for Decommissioning adopted "Mid-to-Long-Term Roadmap towards the Decommissioning of Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Units 1-4, TEPCO." The roadmap indicates three phase approach towards 40 years decommissioning period.

One week after the 9.0 earthquake and the devastating tsunami that struck off the coast of Honshu Island and severely damaged the cooling systems of three reactor units at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, 250 km north of Tokyo, Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces and the Tokyo Fire Department are still fighting heroically to cool down the damaged reactor units. The disaster has recently been upgraded to an INES 5 serious accident due to significant release of radioactive material likely to require implementation of planned countermeasures. People who live 20 km from the nuclear power station have been evacuated and people who live betwen 20-30 km from Fukushima Dai-ichi site are to stay indoors. The Japanese National Police Agency has officially confirmed 7,508 deaths, 2,583 injured, and 11,680 people missing across seventeen prefectures, as well as over 100,000 buildings damaged or destroyed.

First Sign of Unmanned Operation Needs
While Japan is renowned for its cutting edge robotics technology at Robotland we are surprised and concerned to watch on television human firefighters outside the damaged reactors. Why aren't they using remote controlled robots and unmanned trucks? When asked a science ministry official said a robot used to detect radiation levels is at the Fukushima site, but according to Reuters nuclear safety agency JNES official Hidehiko Nishiyama said: "We have no reports of any robots being used."

Six hours after the earthquake Robotland published a Rescue Robot Alert and started searching for experts and suppliers of search, rescue and firefighting robots. According to IFR Service Robot report 2010 many prototypes of  robots have been designed to locate and fight bombs and fires. However, very few designs have been commercialized for firefighting. IFR lists four suppliers: Rechners GmbH, Austria, InRobTech, Israel, Komatsu, Japan, Hoya Robot, S.Korea.

Robotland found privately owned Croatian company DOK-ING Ltd, developing a remote controlled fire fighting system developed to fight fires in hazardous and inaccessible areas.

On Wednesday March 16,  a Japanese government source confirms that the U.S. military will operate a Global Hawk unmanned high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft over Fukushima plant to take a closer look at its troubled reactors.

On Thursday March 17, German media report about IAEA request to member countries asking for "robots and unmanned vehicles capable of operating in highly radioactive“ as that of Fukushima.

A critical report from Reuters - "Japan a robot power everywhere except at nuclear plant"- is replied by Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at Robot Texas A&M Univ., CRASAR, a crisis response and research organization which strives to direct and exploit new technology development in robotics and unmanned systems for humanitarian purposes worldwide, claiming that "pretty much no country has robots (or at least barely plural) for nuclear disasters - denial and spending the necessary R&D money for this very, very hard type of robot is not unique to the Japanese, the US is in similar shape."

Scary Insights from Rescue Robot Experts
CRASAR confess that their small rescue robots to search for survivors aren´t feasible in radiated environments because sensors would probably be the first to go– video and cameras are fairly sensitive to radiation from their CCD chips. It’s impossible to work remotely if video is down.
Credit: Northrop Grumman
According to CRASAR the new Remotec robots from Northrop Grumman are less protected and the IED robots have evolved to be even lighter- so less reliable in a nuclear disaster. Nuclear disaster robots need to be "big, beefy, slow, and stupid (as in few processors)"– and even then it’s just a matter of time before enough radiation fries something important. Other constraints are related to limited battery times, changing operations and communication in various containment structures.

CRASAR refers to Red Whittaker, Director at the Field Robotics Institute at CMU, and expert in using robots for nuclear disasters. He led teams to develop robots for operations at Three Mile Island and at Chernobyl. When asked by Robotland March 17 about the possibility to use robots at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, Whittaker says that remote capabilities are available or adaptable for many tasks that may be relevant at the Dai-ichi plant. One difference in robotic operations between contribution and distraction is to begin with understanding of the need.  "Fires" in nuclear incidents are not approachable and extinguishable in the customary manner. According to Whittaker the challenges may be access, water-supply, or reaching over a spent-fuel pool.  The real challenge might be to flood fuel rods at high elevation....or deliver sustained volume of water.... top-down... and at high reach. If so, then pumped water, delivered by remoted cranes and concrete-delivery systems may be more suitable.

Japanese Nuclear Emergency Robot Blindspot
Asked by Robotland March 17 about why no robots being used for reactor cooling Prof. Satoshi Tadokoro, director the International Rescue Systems Institute, reponds that several types of firefighting robots have been developed by Tokyo FD, Osaka FD, Kanagawa FD, etc. in Japan, but most of them are small type UGV.
A large unmanned spraying robot of Tokyo FD has been used for large-scale fires, such as at Bridgestone fire incident. Prof. Tadokoro says, he doesn't know why no robots are used at Fukushima case, but one reason might be that the reachable distance/height of spraying would not be enough for this plant, in addition to the radiation issue. A robot developed after the JCO incident by METI has been used in exercises at Rokkasho nuclear plant. It is being actually used for monitoring the radiation. Many robots were developed after this incident, but they did not continued. Power plant companies mentioned that they did not need such robots because their nuclear plants never have accidents and are safe.

March 18, the Japanese government is conceding it was unprepared for a disaster of that scale and was slow to respond. The prime minister is vowing to "rebuild Japan from scratch." He says the disasters have brought a "great test for the Japanese people."

First Disaster Monitoring Robot Arrives
Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reports that the first Japanese disaster monitoring robot, Monirobo ("Monitoring Robot"), has arrived at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. Monirobo was developed by  Japan's Nuclear Safety Technology Centre in association with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, METI, after the Tokaimura nuclear accident in 1999 in which two workers died. Monirobo is designed to operate at radiation levels too high for humans. The 1.5-metre and 600 kg heavy robot runs on a pair of caterpillar tracks with a speed of 2.4 km/hr. It has a manipulator arm for removing obstacles and collecting samples. Sensors include a radiation detector, 3D camera system and temperature and humidity sensors. It can be operated remotely from a distance of about one km. The robot carries heavy shielding to protect electronics, especially cameras, of the effects of radiation.
US Ground Robots for Hazmat Mission in Japan
US company iRobot asked for help by the Japanese government, is donating two of its 510 PackBots and two 710 Warrior Robots to Japan, along with two week support by six employees, who will train Japanese military operators. Nothing is said about radiation risks for the robots.

CRASAR says iRobot robots are "great for low-level radiation situations (or for high radiation die-in-place conditions) and much more agile that the traditional tank style monirobo".

Nuclear Emergency Robots in Europe
Credit: KHG Nuclear Emergency Robots
As of January, 2011 there is a total of 195 nuclear power plant units with an installed electric net capacity of 170 GWe in operation in Europe and 19 units with 16,9 GWe were under construction in six countries.

Robotland has reported that Germany and France have established national nuclear emergency teams with special nuclear emergency robots developed. The response status of these organizations and the status in other European countries is not known but needs to be reviewed after the tragic Japanese Nuclear Disaster Robot Disaster 2011.

Citizen Summary: 
  • Many stakeholders have failed to identify the risk not to have access to nuclear emergency robots feasible to operate in radiated environments. 
  • IAEA and national authorities have fail to demand nuclear emergency robots in preparedness and response for a nuclear or radiological emergency.
  • The Japanese Nuclear Power Industry has failed to foresee a need.
  • Few rescue organizations operate robots that are feasible in radiated environments. 
  • The nightmare isn't over. 
  • It's time to rethink and demand viable systems!

US Ground Robots for Hazmat Mission in Japan

Credit: iRobot, 510 PackBot for HazMat  
One week after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan causing the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima site the Japanese government has asked for robotic help from other countries. One of the first robots that will arrive are from USA donated by iRobot.
NECN Eileen Curran reports that on Thursday morning, the Japanese military contacted US company iRobot asking for help. iRobot is donating two of its 510 PackBots and two 710 Warrior Robots to Japan, along with two week support of six employees. The packbots will be equipped with a hazmat sensor and the warriors will be fitted with a special gripper that can hold a fire hose. iRobot employees won´t be going into the nuclear power plant but actually teach the Japanese military how to use the robots. Nothing was said about the radiation risk for the robots.
According to a leading rescue robot expert microprocessors and especially CCD cameras are highly sensitive to radiation- and thus will unpredictably fail.

The iRobot 510 PackBot for HazMat Technicians detects and identifies dangerous chemical, radiological and organic compounds, providing warfighters, first responders and SWAT teams with critical information on a range of missions
The iRobot 710 Warrior is a powerful and rugged robot that carries heavy payloads, travels over rough terrain and climbs stairs while performing a variety of critical missions such as Bomb Disposal / EOD (IEDs / VBIEDs / UXOs), Route Clearance and Surveillance / Reconnaissance.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Nuclear Emergency Robots from Europe

While Japan is renowned for its cutting edge robotics technology the world is surprised and concerned to  watch human firefighters and plant workers at the high risk Fukushima site north of Tokyo. Why aren't  remote controlled robots and unmanned vehicles cooling the damaged reactors? When asked a science ministry official said a robot used to detect radiation levels is at the Fukushima site,  but nuclear safety agency JNES official Hidehiko Nishiyama said: "We have no reports of any robots being used."

IAEA in Search of Nuclear Emergency Robots
One week after the earthquake and nuclear power plant disaster IAEA has sent a request to countries asking for "robots and unmanned vehicles capable of operating in highly radioactive “ as that of Fukushima. According to the German media reports Japan has asked Germany for remote controlled robots for operations at Fukushima 1. According to Christoph Unger, President of German Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK), an inquiry can be send out to the federal states to ask who can supply such robots as soon as specifications have been arrived from Japan. Two organizations that might help are German KHG and French Group INTRA.

KHG - German Nuclear Emergency Team Germany 
Credit: KHG
The operators of nuclear power plants in the Federal Republic of Germany have taken technical and personnel precautions to stabilize a plant following an accident or breakdown, to analyse the cause and to eliminate the resultant effects. Part of this emergency programme has been placed in the hands of our organisation. The KHG Kerntechnische Hilfsdienste GmbH (Nuclear Technology Support Services) was founded in 1977 by the companies operating nuclear power plants in Germany, together with the fuel cycle industry and major research centres. KHG has a range of vehicles extending from a 22 ton radio-controlled excavator, to small radio-controlled inspection vehicle.


Group INTRA - Nuclear Emergency Team France 
In France the Groupe INTRA, created in 1988, two years after the accident of Chernobyl, by the three French nuclear operators EDFCEA and AREVA(COGEMA), has developed, operate and maintain a fleet of specific remote-controlled equipment, able to intervene instead of human beings, in the case of an accident in one of its members’ nuclear site. INTRA has also developed expertise of remote intervention, by listing and capitalizing on the experience of interventions carried out within companies or anywhere else, in the case of incident, exceptional maintenance or cleaning and/or decommissioning.
Credit: Groupe INTRA - VERI II B

VERI II B - Teleoperated Vehicle for Investigation 2B - is always forms part of the operational equipment of Groupe INTRA but is now reserved for possible non emergency missions. Robot VERI II B can be teleoperated until a distance of 2 kilometers. It can complete work with its embarked hydraulic tools (shear, power pick and drilling machine).



Credit: Groupe INTRA - ERELT
ERELT is a teleoperated relay robot used to relay the transmissions (Radio-com-mands, radio-measurements, videos, sounds) from and towards other robots and to improve the radioelectrical coverage. Related missions are visual inspection, radioactivity and temperature measurement.  The flexmobil - rubber caterpillar has Deutz 152 HP - air cooled diesel engine, max speed 4,2 m/s and a max distance radio relay of 5 km of fiber optic cable on board, The autonomy in radio relay is about  80 hours. The robot is equipped with 4 cameras, two of which on turrets. The day and night all-terrain robot vehicle has a slope climbing capacity of < 26° and a max hygrometry of 80 % à + 30°C. Operating temperature is - 20°C < T < + 45°C.  The max absorb dose rate level is 1 Gy/h, the max integrated absorb dose is 10 Gy.

The Groupe INTRA is a pole of inventory and expertise for techniques and mobilizable robotics machines in the case of a crisis. Agreement of cooperation with home office. Team and equipment must be ready to intervene within 24/365 on the whole French Territory. INTRA has a permanent staff 20 people and a yearly budget of  4 M€. Global investment  is about 40 M€. Members shares : 50 % EDF 37.5% CEA 12.5% AREVA.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Firefighting Robot for Nuclear Power Station from Croatia

Time is running out for the Fukushima site and the need of a robotic firefighting solution is urgent. While the world is asking why there are no Japanese robots fighting the nuclear heat, and leading robot experts refer to prototypes only, privately owned Croatian company DOK-ING Ltd. might have a solution. The company established in 1991 and registered for the production of robots and equipment for special purposes is one of the international leaders in designing and manufacturing remote controlled firefighting robotic vehicles MVF-5.

March 21: DOK-ING has informed Robotland, that there are only two prototypes machines at their facility in Zagreb and that operators/fireman need two-week training for this new technology. 

The MVF-5 is unique remote controlled fire fighting system developed to fight fires in hazardous and inaccessible areas. It is designed to help fire-fighters to do their job in the most challenging and dangerous conditions. The MVF-5 is the third product launched by DOK-ING and was designed based on the development of the previous DOK-ING machines. The system is an example of a highly sophisticated robotic system incorporating the latest fire fighting technologies that enable users to extinguish fires with minimal personnel and vehicle damage. The remote-control system allows the user to remain outside the range of danger during operation. The system is effective in clearing a path for traditional fire fighting vehicles in difficult terrain.
The standard operating tool mounted in front of the vehicle is a hydraulic arm and blade tool attachment which allows the system to grip and remove obstacles. The MVF-5 has a Ziegler water pump with a range of 55 m and tanks with a capacity of 1800 l of water and 600 l of foam.
The MVF-5 can effectively operate in the following locations: Oil refineries and chemical plants, chemical storage areas, nuclear power stations, military storage depots, transportation of flammable materials, forests
urban environments.


FP7 Project FIREROB

DOK-ING was awarded a grant in the amount of EUR 803,000 for the technological improvements of the Jelka Fire Fighting System. Through this program, a new joint remote control system will be developed with incorporated video system with thermal cameras, GPS positioning system, pattern recognition system, and multilayer thermo reflecting paint. The project has gathered the consortium of four small & medium enterprises: Croatian DOK-ING as a coordinator, Spanish MESA, Greek Kampakas and Definet along with 2 scientific institutions: Croatian Institute of Naval Engineering and SCOT-Atri from Scotland.
http://www.firerob.info/

Firefighting Robots in Japan

Robotland asked some of the world leading rescue robotics researchers, why there are no firefighting robots operating at the Fukushima site. One reason mentioned was that the reachable distance/height of spraying would not be enough for this plant, in addition to the radiation issue. Most firefighting robots are small type UGV or only prototypes. But it was also mentioned that Japanese power plant companies haven´t seen a need of such robots because they considered their nuclear plants as safe and free from accidents.


Firefighting Robot Development in Japan
The development of practical high-performance robots that are affordable to fire headquarters have been implemented with the objective of developing robots for NBC terrorism by 2006. NBC disasters are special disasters including Nuclear disasters caused by nuclear radiation and radioactive substances, Biological disasters caused by pathogenic microorganisms such as viruses, rickettsia and microbes, and Chemical disasters caused by toxic chemicals.  
In 2006 a Firefighting Technology Policy Office was established in the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC). The FDMA and its National Research Institute of Fire and Disaster, NRIFD, conduct research to address the common challenges for all prefectures of Japan, including development of equipment for emergency firefighting assistance teams and development of an information system for coping with large scale natural disasters including earthquakes.
Credit: Mitsubishi/NRIFD (FRIGO-M)
NRIFD  in Tokyo is the only institute in Japan engaged in comprehensive research on firefighting and disaster prevention. NRIFD conducts developmental research on robots that assist with firefighting activities, such as information collection and rescue efforts, in areas where firefighting personnel find it difficult to enter, including fires at nuclear power plants and areas affected by the release of toxic gases due to terrorism. Extreme environmentally-resistant modifications, including waterproofing, dustproofing and shock resistant capabilities that allow the robot to be used directly at the scene of fires, have been made, and robots are being introduced in experimental programs for practical deployment in the future.

The robot “FRIGO-M” is capable of autonomously recognizing and following a firefighter wearing firefighting clothing etc., automatically recognizing and memorizing the path of movement taken, and autonomously transporting disaster victims found by the firefighter to safety by retracing the path. The FRIGO-M robot has a main body that is highly waterproof, dustproof, explosion-proof, and shock-resistant.


Local Fire Fighting Research & Development 

Credit: Muza-Chan - Robocue Tokyo FD

Several types of firefighting robots have also been developed by local government firefighting departments in Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa etc. Most of them are small type UGV. A large unmanned spraying robot of Tokyo Firefighting department has been used for large-scale fires, such as at Bridgestone fire incident.
The Tokyo Fire department has 12 different types of fire fighting and rescue robots. These robots are designed to handle disasters that are too dangerous for personnel during an emergency. Some types of robots can shoot water or foam on to fires. One type can rescue a person and another type are able to move large objects. Currently all robots are controlled by remote operators. Robocue is a remote-controlled rescue robot, used by Tokyo Fire Department since 2009. Robocue was built to save lives in case of disasters, being capable to pull a person inside its body (using a sort of pincers and a conveyor belt) and to carry it to safety.