Drone pilots have recently marked two significant achievements at the Sellafield nuclear site, potentially enhancing safety measures for on-site employees during the decommissioning phase. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) team at Sellafield accomplished the maiden flight of the Elios 3 drone fitted with a LiDAR sensor. This advancement promises to provide unprecedented efficiency in 3D modelling and mapping.
Following this achievement, the team piloted the Flyability Elios 3 drone equipped with a RAD (radiation activity detection) dosimeter, a tool anticipated to pinpoint radiation hotspots. The aim is to identify these areas before personnel access previously unused sections of the Sellafield facility.
Amanda Smith, UAV equipment programme lead at Sellafield, elaborated on the dual benefits of this initiative: enhanced safety and financial savings. The data obtained from the Elios 3 drone is currently being processed into a 3D model. This model is expected to guide subsequent engineering decisions. Smith emphasized the advantages of utilizing drones in confined, previously unexplored spaces, as it reduces risks associated with human entry and also results in significant time and cost savings.
Sam Jay, the chief UAV equipment engineer and pilot for Sellafield, described the challenges faced during such drone flights. The confined spaces, filled with intricate pipework, demand meticulous planning for the drones, which are encased in protective cages with sensors to avoid damage upon contact. Jay emphasized the importance of quickly navigating these spaces, as any delay or inability to retrieve the drone would counteract its primary safety advantage.
Further reinforcing its commitment to innovation, Sellafield recently became the UK's first nuclear site to use a drone with a radiation monitor. This groundbreaking measure is aimed at gauging radiation levels and pinpointing potential high-risk zones in areas with previously undetermined radiation exposure.