A pioneering drone team in West Cumbria are at the forefront of future technology which will change the way hazardous environments are monitored across the UK.

Amanda Smith, Sellafield’s UAV Equipment Programme Lead, and Adrian Johnson, UAV Equipment Engineer, were asked as end users to take part in a national competition for remote monitoring of sensitive sites fully funded by the NDA (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) and delivered by DASA (Defence and Security Accelerator).

Smith and Johnson, based at Sellafield’s Engineering Centre of Excellence at Cleator Moor, are helping shape the next phase of UAV technology by giving an end user perspective on what will be of most benefit to decommissioning sites across the UK.

Drone demonstration

The expert drone duo were asked to give their input at a recent demonstration event for one of the projects funded by the NDA competition at Milton Keynes due to their innovative use of UAVs at Sellafield and throughout the NDA estate.

The demonstration displayed cutting edge UAV technology, the project involving designing capability from scratch to enable drones to land on surfaces of any orientation based on a novel thrust-vectoring and suction-attachment technology, and then use an arm to deploy tools to carry out tasks.

Smith said: “This technology will revolutionise the use of drones in hazardous environments as it will transform them from being a monitoring tool to being used to actually do the job as well.

“These drones have multiple arms – and can be fitted with whatever tools you want to complete a task – it’s a bit like a Swiss Army knife approach.”

West Cumbria

Andrew Gray, NDA Innovation Delivery Manager, said: “We are excited to be working with DASA to provide over £700,000 in funding to develop these innovations to help monitor sensitive sites without the physical presence of humans.

“These technologies will help us deliver our mission in different ways, enabling us to move our people away from harm and undertake work which will ultimately accelerate the safe and secure decommissioning of our sites.

“Involving the end user is crucial in all aspects of our competitions, to help frame and drive the technologies into forming the best possible solutions, and we are very grateful to the Sellafield team for their support.”
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