Nuclear, O&M


Issue 9 and Volume 117.


It can see, and slither, and writhe its way into tight spaces. Is it a snake? Well, kind of.

The modular snake robot developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute made big news this summer when it successfully inspected the bowels of Austria’s dormant Zwentendorf nuclear power plant.

Just two inches in diameter and 37 inches long, its body tethered to a control and power cable out the rear end, the robot’s 16 modules with two half-joints each gives it 16 degrees of movement, affording it the dexterity to reach places and get high-quality, well-lit viewing angles that would be difficult or impossible for a human or even a boreoscope.


The “right-side-up” feature, in which the video feed from the camera on its head is corrected to align with gravity, makes operating the robot more intuitive.

“With further development and testing, such a robot could give operators a more complete understanding of a plant’s condition and perhaps reduce a plant’s downtime by enabling faster, more efficient inspections,” said Martin Fries, an engineer with EVN Group, owner of the Zwentendorf facility.

Next, engineers hope to make the robot even more like a snake: waterproof.

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