Japan's devastating 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami has not only resulted in indescribable destruction, but also, caused a meltdown at its Fukushima nuclear plant leading to an unprecedented nuclear crises - One, that nobody know how to control, yet.
Since the March 11th debacle, 50 brave Japanese workers, dubbed the Fukushima Fifty have been at the forefront, trying to regain control of the three overheated nuclear reactors that have slowly begun to pollute the area with dangerous radioactive chemicals. On March 24th, the crises escalated when three of them had to be rushed to the hospital, after coming in contact, with uranium-exposed water.
Coming to the realization that the area may be too dangerous for humans, the Japanese officials decided to enlist some robots to help. The first two to enter the fray were the red and yellow Monirobo's (Monitoring Robots). Developed by Japan's Nuclear Safety Technology Center, they are designed to operate at radiation levels that would be deemed too dangerous for humans.
The 1.5-meter droids that weights a whopping 600kgs (about 1,322lbs), run on a pair of caterpillar tracks and can be operated from a distance of about a kilometer. They have inbuilt radiation, temperature and humidity sensors, as well as, a 3D camera system.
Weighed down by the heavy shielding that protect its equipment from radiation, the lumbering giants move around slowly, removing obstacles and collecting samples, with their arm-like structures.
Assisting the two Japanese bots, is a team of four US Droids. Developed by Bedford-based iRobot, the contingent comprises of two of its top 'Warrior' models that can climb stairs, swim across water with flippers and lift up to 150-lbs, all while recording audio, video and radioactivity data.
On April 8th, QinetiQ, one of the world's leading defense and security companies, announced that it's team of Talon robots had just landed in Tokyo, to help too. While the veteran robots have never been tested in a radiation filled environment, they have been successfully deployed in war zones in both Iraq and Afghanistan and also, assisted with rescue missions during the 9/11 tragedy in New York.
In addition to that the USA has also sent a delegation of 40 experts to help the Japanese officials figure out how to manipulate these robots effectively. We just hope that they will be able to help resolve what seems to be an unending series of unfortunate events in Japan, without endangering any more people.