Quadruped robot to investigate Fukushima plant

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Toshiba has developed a four-legged robot that - at some point - will be used to explore Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor - still basically a no-go area more than a year and a half after the accident.

The 65-kilogram robot has a two-hour battery life, is operated remotely vias wireless and includes a camera and dosimeter.

"The multiple joints of its legs are controlled by a dedicated movement algorithm that enables the robot to walk on uneven surfaces, avoid obstacles and climb stairs, securing access into areas that is challenging to be reached by wheeled robots or crawlers," says Toshiba.

This means it can get into areas inaccessible to the existing caterpillar-track robots being used to investigate the site.

Using one of its arms, it can also unpack a smaller companion robot from its own innards, which can go off and explore with its own camera.

"This can be launched from the main robot and positioned to take images of narrow places and any equipment behind them, and tubes and other places that are too small for the robot to enter. It is connected to the main robot by a cable," the company says.

This is vital, as there are many areas within the Tokyo Electric Power Plant Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear power plant which are just too big for the 'mother' version.

Unfortunately, the robot isn't quite ready to go into the plant just yet. Toshiba's working on giving it the ability to position and install shielding, stop flows of water and remove obstacles, so that the plant can be made safe for human investigators.