RICHLAND, Wash. – An autonomous instrumented vehicle — better known as a rover — easily traversed the terrain in a recent test drive near SX Tank Farm at the EM Office of River Protection’s (ORP) Hanford Site.
The field demonstration concluded the first phase of development, in collaboration with Washington State University Tri-Cities, which procured the vehicle and is helping program it.
The second development phase, in fiscal year 2019, will include improving the hardware, such as the camera and scanning equipment, activating collision avoidance, and perfecting the software, such as wireless transmission of data rather than waiting to download it after the mission.
The goal is to send the rover into a tank farm to monitor for chemical vapors, conduct visual inspections, investigate an incident, take a radiological survey, and even use ground-penetrating radar.
“It’s getting around easily,” Alex Pappas, a scientist with ORP tank farms contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), said of the rover. “It has a lot of functionality, and it’s easy to use. In the next two or three years, we could have a completely deployable unit.”
That means in the near future workers could conduct a tank farm inspection remotely, improving worker safety. The rover could support construction and operations.
“The success of the rover demonstration highlights the exciting potential of this tool,” said Jim Lynch, ORP program manager for tank farm projects. “DOE is encouraged by WRPS’s partnership with our local university to develop new technologies like this, which support safe, efficient, and cost-effective solutions for work in the tank farms.”