Toshiba has designed and built a four-legged robot to conduct investigative and recovery work in locations too dangerous for humans, including the reactor buildings of the damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 1 nuclear plant. (Source: Toshiba)
Additionally, I wonder if they're thinking too conventionally. A quad-copter is a self-stabilizing platform with cameras, one that can move around precisely without having to deal with stairs. It's off-the-shelf hardware that is quite inexpensive. It's not radiation-hardened, but they can purchase an awful lot of them and get quick inspection results.
Always in disaster do we see innovation and development. Some could argue that no one could envision the need for such a bot before the disaster, not it is an industry. Take a look at what came from World War II, More innovation than I have time today to write.
Despite how technologically advance the Japanese are, or were, perhaps they are looking elsewhere for inspiration and new ideas.
Lou, I agree. Then reasons appear to be that, until this disaster Japan's robot development hadn't been aimed at this type of device, but in other directions, such as towards the consumer sector and humanoid forms.
TJ, that's an intriguing idea. But the rad-hard ability is a big, big factor, due to extremely high radiation levels inside the damaged plant. Quad copters, at least presently, aren't very rugged compared to UGVs, which already have a lot of generations of development behind them in the military.
Sending robots in to a still smoldering nuclear power plant for damage assessment is a great idea. It's what they were built for, however when it comes to repairing the damage and cleaning up the aftermath will fall to humans. I find it incredibly amazing that the elderly in that region have volunteered to go in on what can only be termed as a 'suicide missions' to repair the ailing reactors.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
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