Upgraded Quince robots ready for gathering data inside the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant

New Quince robots for gathering data inside the radiation-contaminated Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are ready to go into action; three months after an older version got stuck inside the No. 2 reactor building. Equipped with cameras, thermometers and hygrometers, the new pair of caterpillar-shaped robots from Chiba Institute of Technology, Japan, called Quince No. 2 and No. 3, are expected to be sent in by the end of February. Robot Quince No. 2 is outfitted with a dust sampler to collect radioactive dust or ultrafine particles to ensure that workers at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant are not overexposed. Robot Quince No. 2 has a 3-D scanner. The robots are the advanced version of Quince, the first Japanese robot to enter the plant in June. It was abandoned inside the No. 2 building after its cable snapped in October.

The first robots to provide a glimpse inside were U.S. Packbot robots developed by Massachusetts-based technology firm iRobot Corp. Much longer than the 30-to-40-meter cable in the first Quince, the retractable cable in the new robots is 400 meters long, extending their mission range. Learning from the failure of the first Quince, the two new robots can be connected over a wireless network, or to any other wireless robots, inside the reactor buildings, even if their cables are cut. The new robots can actually help any other robots with an IP address.

Chiba Institute of Technology is also developing three other types of robots. One can raise a camera 4 meters off the ground to take pictures of elevated machinery, such as cooling systems inside reactor buildings. Another will carry a 200-kg gamma camera.

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