Sellafield marks two flight firsts in the use of drones at the U.K. site

August 8, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions

Technical specialist Peter King (left) and Sam Jay, UAV engineer and chief pilot, at Sellafield’s Engineering Centre of Excellence, with the Flyability Elios 3 drone. (Photo: Sellafield)

Sellafield Ltd., a subsidiary of the U.K. government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, announced that drone pilots have successfully completed two firsts in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, England.

According to the company, the flights, which accessed a Sellafield building with limited space using a light detection and ranging (lidar) sensor and a radiation dosimeter, are helping improve the safety of employees during the decommissioning of the site’s legacy buildings.

Mapping flight: First, an Elios 3 drone equipped with a lidar sensor was able to successfully collect data from a site building. The data will be processed to produce a 3D model of the area, which will help inform engineering decisions. According to Sellafield, the mapping flight marks a major milestone for the site’s UAV team, enabling unparalleled efficiency in mapping and 3D modeling.

Mobile unmanned systems: Automating operations, increasing efficiency, and reducing risk in nuclear

December 2, 2022, 3:03PMNuclear NewsBrian Dassatti, Kamila Blain, and Jenn Sinkiewicz
Teledyne FLIR PackBot® conducts visual inspections in a hazardous area.

Mobile unmanned systems, also known as MUS, encompass a range of robotic devices, including drones, ground vehicles, crawlers, and submersibles. They are used for a wide range of industrial and defense applications to automate operations and assist humans or completely remove human workers from hazardous conditions. Robotics are ubiquitous in industrial manufacturing. Military robots are routinely employed in combat support applications, such as reconnaissance, inspection, explosive ordnance disposal, and transportation. Drones are used in many industries for security and monitoring, to conduct aerial inspections or surveys, and to capture digital twins. Wind and solar farms use MUS technologies for day-to-day operations and maintenance.

INL engineers become drone pilots to prepare for waste vault testing

September 7, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s Calcine Retrieval Project (CRP) at the Idaho National Laboratory Site is progressing toward what is likely to be a first: flying a light detection and ranging-equipped drone inside a high-level radioactive waste vault to map its interior.

SwRI demonstrates drone autonomy technology

November 29, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
SwRI engineers used LIDAR point cloud data to reconstruct a high-resolution image of a facility that houses electric turbines at the nuclear power plant. 3D cubes, or voxels, on the left provide spatial information on the turbine facility. Point clouds were reconstructed to create the high-resolution image of the turbines on the right. SwRI specializes in data visualizations to identify damage and potential hazards following accidents at nuclear power plants and other hazardous facilities. (Graphic: SwRI)

During the EnRicH 2021 European Robotics Hackathon, Southwest Research Institute’s unmanned aircraft system (UAS or drone) explored and mapped the interior of a nuclear power plant, detecting radiation sources autonomously, without the aid of a human pilot.

SwRI’s UAS technology can potentially assist in life-saving search-and-rescue missions and hazardous inspections at industrial facilities and infrastructure following natural disasters and other incidents.

Ratliff and Harris: Innovation for safety and reliability

October 23, 2020, 3:14PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier



When Floyd Harris began working at Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant about 24 years ago as a radiation protection technician, robotics and remote monitoring were considered tools for radiation protection and nothing more. Now, teams from across the site, including engineering, maintenance, and operations, rely on the system of robots and cameras Harris is responsible for. “If you want to put those technologies under one umbrella,” says Harris, who now holds the title of nuclear station scientist, “it would be monitoring plant conditions.”

That monitoring is critical to effective plant maintenance. As Plant Manager Jay Ratliff explains, the goal is to “find a problem before it finds us” and ensure safety and reliability. Nuclear News Staff Writer Susan Gallier talked with Ratliff and Harris about how robotics and remote systems are deployed to meet those goals.

At Brunswick, which hosts GE-designed boiling water reactors in Southport, N.C., ingenuity and hard work have produced a novel remote dosimetry turnstile to control access to high-radiation areas, an extensive network to handle data from monitoring cameras, rapid fleetwide access to camera feeds to support collaboration, and new applications for robots and drones.