Even as the Fukushima Fifty were fighting valiantly to avert the nuclear meltdown in Japan, robots such as iRobot gadgets, made by the US have been sent in to help with the cleaning up operations.
These gadgets move on tracks and include a single arm resembling a crane, which would be used for removing rubble and also studying the radiation levels. The scanning Disaster Monitoring Robot or Moni-Robo was sent by Mitusi to the site. Inuktun Services of Canada have also been getting enquiries about their androids, which wield video cameras. However, queries about what role the robots could take and if they should be used in the nuclear plant still remain unanswered.
The latest information from Fukushima is that three members belonging to the Fukushima Fifty had been hospitalized for suspected radiation poisoning due to contact with the uranium tainted water. The robots could handle the radiation but would suffer because of the tons of seawater that has been bombarded into the Daichi No1 and 2 reactors for preventing the fuel rods from overheating. With death hanging overhead, the teams may have to resort to using gadgets.
Six Engineers from iRobot travelled from Bedford in Massachusetts along with four iRobot systems, two Warriors and two PackBots to Tokyo. Normally, PackBots are used for explosive ordinance disposal and the Warrior is still in the prototype stage. Hence, a lot of discussions about the capabilities, limitations and operations of the gadgets are to be carried out with Tokyo Electric Power, the plant owners. The Warriors were altered to include a three inch fire hose for carrying water. Each gadget contains an arm, which could lift a weight of 220 lb and has an adjustable track system for climbing stairs at a speed of 8mph. One of the PackBots was incorporated with a sensor for detecting radioactivity and each PackBot contains a three link arm for lifting up a weight of 30lb, relocating hazardous materials and move debris.
The Moni-Robo from Mitsui is a one armed robot with a camera, which could film videos and three-dimensional thermographic pictures and has sensors for measuring radioactivity and combustible gases. The crawler robots from Inuktun are mainly used for the inspection of confined spaces such as sewers and pipes.