UK radiation-mapping drone heads for Fukushima

A UK-developed quadcopter drone with radiation-mapping capabilities is set to be deployed on the damaged reactor building of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.


RISER uses lasers to operate autonomously deep inside hazardous facilities (Credit: NDA)

RISER (Remote Intelligence Survey Equipment for Radiation), combines software from Cockermouth-based Createc with a UAV developed by Blue Bear, from Bedford. Createc’s N-Visage radiation mapping software creates a high-definition 3D picture of contamination, while the UAV uses lasers to operate autonomously deep inside hazardous facilities where GPS signals can’t reach. The collaboration has received financial backing from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) as well as Innovate UK.

“We are thrilled to see RISER put to work in Japan, and delighted that our early-stage support for the N-Visage system enabled Createc to develop its potential further,” said Prof Melanie Brownridge, the NDA’s head of technology.

“The subsequent collaboration with Blue Bear, again funded by the NDA through an initiative with Innovate UK, led to RISER. This shows the importance of funding innovative ideas through their journey from the drawing board to the market – not just for the NDA’s decommissioning mission but for the wider UK and overseas economy.”


Createc's N-Visage radiation-mapping software is mounted on the drone (Credit: NDA) 

While the radiation-mapping software has already been used at the Fukushima site, RISER will enable its operation in parts of the plant that have previously been beyond reach. The UAV is less than one metre in diameter and navigates using its own internal collision avoidance system.

In the UK, RISER has been deployed on the remaining Windscale Pile chimney at Sellafield, which remains highly contaminated after the fire that occurred there in 1957. Using remotely operated equipment is the only way to establish how the chimney can be cleaned out and finally dismantled.