Thirty years ago, LaserSnake2 would be the name of a video game we would badly, badly want to get our hands on. In 2016, it’s the name of a real-life robot which looks, for all intents and purposes, like one of the terrifying creatures from Tremors and happens to shoot out five-kilowatt laser blasts for good measure.
Recently, LaserSnake2 — described by its creators OC Robotics as an “integrated snake-arm robot and laser cutting” technology — turned its terrible, terrible wrath on a nuclear power plant in the U.K., carrying out the in-situ decommissioning of a nuclear cell at the First Generation Reprocessing Plants in Sellafield, England.
The snake robot’s job was to cut through a thick dissolver vessel, which was previously part of the core nuclear reactor hardware.
“The active deployment at Sellafield was a world first,” Rebecca Smith, a member of the business development team at OC Robotics, told Digital Trends. “There are significant benefits to using the LaserSnake system for size reduction in an active cell: the system can be deployed quicker and more practically than alternative size reduction techniques, and can dramatically reduce the costs of nuclear decommissioning.”
Snake-arm robots, she noted, are routinely used across a broad spectrum of industries, including aerospace, construction, and defense due to their ability to maneuver into areas that might otherwise be tough to access.
LaserSnake is a particularly impressive example of such a robot: boasting almost 15 feet of articulation and not only the aforementioned high-power laser cutting head but also high-definition cameras and supercharged illumination LEDs for easy operation.
“The LaserSnake arm has two degrees of freedom at each joint allowing it to ‘snake’ through environments,” Smith continued. “Snake-arm robots are particularly suited to nuclear applications, as the sensitive electronics are situated outside of the environment — away from potential contamination or radiation, with only the arm deployed into the workspace.”
It’s certainly done enough to win over the necessary decision-makers. In November, the LaserSnake project won the Technology/Innovation Implementation Award at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Supply Chain Awards. For those unfamiliar with it, that is pretty much the Oscars for nuclear decommissioning.
Does that make the LaserSnake2 Leonardo DiCaprio? We’re not sure, to be honest; we’re still kind of hung up on that whole ‘it’s-a-giant-laser-toting-snake-robot’ thing.
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