PIONEER, a small,bulldozer-like mobile robot, developed in part by Robotics Institute researchers and built by university spinoff RedZone Robotics, Inc., to inspect and assess the interior of the destroyed nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, made its official debut in Ukraine last Thursday.
Deputy Secretary of Energy (DoE) T. J. Glauthier, Steven Pifer, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, and Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon attended the ceremony and got firsthand looks at PIONEER's command console. They each operated the robot and were given a close look at the mapper user interface, developed by Carnegie Mellon researchers.
PIONEER project manager Jim Osborn, assistant director of the Field Robotics Center (FRC), along with FRC staff members Todd Camill, Jim Teza and Scott Thayer also attended the event. Osborn described the mapper and core sampling drill for the audience. PIONEER was demonstrated by a two-man team (one American and one Ukrainian) as it bulldozed bricks, climbed obstacles and picked up objects in the shadow of the Chernobyl sarcophagus.
The PIONEER project, sponsored by DoE and NASA, and conducted by a team of technology partners from government, industry and universities, was more than two years in the making, but it's only a small part of the effort to stabilize and clean up the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which exploded in April 1986 in the world's worst nuclear accident. The concrete and steel sarchophagus built around it to contain radiation after the accident is deteriorating and the Ukrainian government is under pressure from the world community to close the facility because of concerns about its structural integrity.
For a picture and more information about PIONEER, visit the project Web site at http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/projects/pioneer/