Robotic vehicles possess an advantage in that they can go where humans cannot, and can be used in many applications where human interaction is not possible. After the 2011 Tohoku natural disaster, the nuclear industry has put out a Request for Proposal for an inspection vehicle capable of operating in a hazardous environment while the operator stays safe in a remote location. The vehicle would be small and agile, able to easily maneuver around obstacles while gathering information and performing some simple manipulations of the environment. The proof-of-concept device must be able to negotiate around a set of obstacles, reach a series of inspection points, and manipulate sensors at designated points before returning to its starting position.
Each year, the ASME offers a design challenge to students, to create a project fulfilling a design specification and to compete against other students. This year’s competition is to create a proof of concept vehicle to satisfy the Request for Proposal (RFP) of the nuclear industry for a small, remotely controlled inspection vehicle. The RFP came after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which caused many problems and emergencies for Japan’s nuclear power stations. Having a tele-operated robotic vehicle would allow exploration and investigation of the hazardous radioactive environment, while the operator could stay in a remote location, safe from harm.