Elephants-to-Ants

Modular robotics technology for nuclear decommissioning

Overview

We liken the decommissioning robotics that are used today to elephants. They are big, complex, single purpose machines. Ants of the other hand can achieve many different tasks by combining to achieve goals beyond their own individual capability. Why can’t we use multiple off-the-shelf, low-cost robotics ‘ants’ in place of large, single purpose, costly ‘elephants’?

The project demonstrated an end-to-end solution for nuclear decommissioning. Over 2 years we developed a modular robotics decommissioning system in which a toolkit of robotics modules can be controlled through a single interface and reconfigured to solve many decommissioning challenges.

Approach

All of the robots and tools used in the project we controllable from remote VR control room. The system has been made simple and natural to use. Every tool required was made accessible via a pair of VR controllers. The robots were controllable by gestures through the VR system.

The project culminated in a week of live demo’s at UKAEA RACE’s test facility in Oxfordshire. Demo’s included, characterising the decommissioning environment, plasma cutting waste items, filling up waste containers with characterised waste.

Solution

The project culminated in a week of live demo’s at UKAEA RACE’s test facility in Oxfordshire. Demo’s included, characterising the decommissioning environment, plasma cutting waste items, filling up waste containers with characterised waste.

Conclusion

An exciting output of the project is just how quickly we can reconfigure our robots to demonstrate different capabilities. During the demo week robots jobs changed every day to complete a completely new demonstration. How much time could be saved if we were to use these robots in reality? 

 

Cost saving

Robotics can operate longer per shift than humans with no safety concerns. The robotics are off-the-shelf and significantly cheaper than bespoke robotic solutions. They’re broad capability makes them usable for future tasks.

 

Dynamic solution

Removing a wall might uncover a rats nest of contaminated pipes. A single bespoke robot is unlikely to handle a multitude of unknow challenges. Our system allows users to swap out the machines required for the task at hand.

 

Spin-Out

Following on from this project we launched a spin-out company that has continued to develop the software platform to achieve the ‘elephants-to-ants’ principle.