In 2017 the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Innovate UK launched a search for innovative technologies that could be combined into a single seamless process for use in decommissioning key parts of the UK’s legacy nuclear sites.
DCE was invited to join a consortium headed by Wood Nuclear (now part of Jacobs). The project aimed to develop a modular system to make decommissioning cheaper, faster and safer. DCE’s key deliverable in the project was to enable the deployment of a range of waste handling and processing tools, all controlled using a single modular control system.
Central to DCE’s approach was its own proprietary Marionette™ universal robotic architecture, a safety-critical control layer which enables the addition of remote or autonomous operation to ‘unmanned vehicles’ as well as existing ‘manned’ vehicles.
Marionette™ was successfully demonstrated controlling DCE’s X2 unmanned ground vehicle and a range of payloads, including a self-loading/unloading skip system. In future DCE plans to demonstrate the utility of Marionette™ as a control system for larger machinery, such as diggers and lifting equipment within the nuclear domain. This will allow inexpensive systems such as mini diggers to be re-purposed for decommissioning, rather than having to procure costly ‘robotic by design’ systems.