The recent earthquake in Japan caused massive destruction and due to the damage of the atomic power plant, US based iRobot has sent 4 robots to Japan to help the rescue teams and to work in the recovery efforts going on at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Radiation levels are high inside and around the reactor and it is becoming almost impossible for humans to work in that environment. iRobot thinks that the robots can be useful as they can repair the damaged parts of the reactor and can work in areas that are dangerous for humans.
Two of the four robots sent to Japan are small portable robots and cost around $100,000 each and 2 are heavy duty robots called Warriors. The portable robots called PackBots use caterpillar tracks and have long arms and a gripper at the end. A camera is also fitted in their arms for recording and navigation purposes. The small robots weigh only 60 pounds but the Warriors weight 350 pounds each and are already under the US military use.
The Japanese will decide the actual use of these robots whether they should be used for rescue purposes or at the reactor. The robots have been equipped with fibre optic tethers for constant flow of communication in case the radio signals do not work inside the reactor. The robots will be controlled by humans and for this purpose the iRobot team is in Japan to train people about the use of the robots.
But there are question marks about the use and efficiency of these robots. A locked or jammed door inside the reactor would prevent them from performing their job and human access will not be possible in those areas.