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Squiggly snake robot could help in Fukushima

Inspection serpent expected to also lend eye at other dangerous sites

TOKYO -- A snake robot that wiggles through complex pipe structures for inspection purposes may play a key role in the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The snake robot can wiggle through complex pipe structures.

The robot, about 2 meters long and 9kg, has been developed by a team of researchers from Kyoto University, Kanazawa University, Okayama University and other entities.

High-performance sensors allow the snake to weave its way through complicated networks of pipes. The robot keeps track of its location by monitoring its own echos, which should keep it from getting lost.

Its makers think the serpent can be used for daily checkups at factories, search operations at sites that pose danger to humans and for decommissioning work at the Fukushima plant.

The snake can gather detailed information of a survey site as it slithers along. It has a camera mounted on its tip that can show images to the operations team, who will be looking at a diagram of the pipe system.

The robot can climb over debris and coil its way up narrow pipes.

"We will upgrade the robot to be water- and dust-resistant and work toward practical applications," said Fumitoshi Matsuno, a Kyoto University robotics professor.


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