RICHLAND, Wash. – EM Office of River Protection (ORP) Hanford tank farms contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) is testing a remote-controlled robot crawler that could help keep workers safer while boosting efficiency.
“A robotic crawler could be just the platform we need,” WRPS scientist Alex Pappas said. “It has good maneuverability to move around objects and can be fitted with a wide range of equipment, from cameras to sampling sensors.”
Safety is a primary reason for considering the introduction of the crawler in the tank farms. Rather than sending workers into tank farms wearing protective clothing, heavy breathing air tanks, and masks, a crawler can conduct tasks such as visual inspections and radiological sampling.
“Continuous evaluation of new technologies supports the workforce in safe and efficient tank farm mission operations,” said Jim Lynch, with the ORP tank farms program division.
Worker time in the tank farms normally is limited to less than an hour to perform tasks before needing to replace breathing air tanks. The crawler has a 10-hour continuous run life between charges. It can also operate in extreme weather.
The crawler has 360-degree scanning capability and is able to recalculate its course if it encounters a difficult obstacle. The crawler maneuvered around boxes, over ropes, and up and down an incline in a recent test.
Workers outside the tank farm will guide the crawler using a hand controller or other electronic device, like a phone or laptop.