A UK technology first is taking place this month thanks to a pioneering drone team.

UAV pilots from Sellafield Ltd’s Engineering Centre of Excellence will fly the first UAV fitted with Lidar sensors at a UK nuclear site.

The team based at Cleator Moor in Cumbria will fly the Swiss-made Flyability Elios 3 as part of a decommissioning programme at the site.

The UAV is capable of carrying the latest Lidar technology, creating 3D visualisation which gives the pilot full situational awareness while flying the drone.

3D mapping reference

The images are also stored for 3D mapping reference, data which can be output for design work and for decommissioning, providing vital information on the physical characterisation of cells

The quadcopter, which uses ducted propellers, can be used to fly in hazardous environments such as active cells, taking away the need to involve humans in those areas.

Sam Jay, UAV Engineer and Chief Pilot at Sellafield Engineering Centre of Excellence, said: “We are going to be able to model an area of the site that people have not been into before.”

Peter King, Technical Specialist at the Centre of Excellence, said: “The technology we are using will enable us to understand decommissioning requirements for inaccessible areas.

“It will enable us to carry out a high quality inspection, changing aspects of decommissioning, enabling us to characterise areas without putting people into those environments.”

Specialist thermal cameras

The drone is able to operate in complete darkness with specialist thermal cameras and oblique lighting, inside full concrete cells and at a distance of up to 500 metres from an operator.

The technology has already been used in the USA, but this month will be the first time it has been used at a nuclear site in the UK.

Photo: From left Peter King, Technical Specialist and Sam Jay, UAV Engineer and Chief Pilot, at Sellafield’s Engineering Centre of Excellence, with the Flyability Elios 3 drone which will carry out a UK technology first later this month.
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