The Many Robots That Ventured Into The Chernobyl NPP #4 Reactor

Before the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (ChNPP, spelled ‘Chornobyl’ in Ukrainian) disaster in 1986, there had been little need for radiation-resistant robots to venture into high-risk zones.

The MF-2 Joker, also used for clearing debris at the Chernobyl NPP #4 disaster site.
The MF-2 Joker, also used for clearing debris at the Chernobyl NPP #4 disaster site.

Yet in the aftermath of the massive steam explosion at the #4 reactor that ripped the building apart — and spread radioactive material across the USSR and Europe — such robots were badly needed to explore and provide clean-up services. The robots which were developed and deployed in a rush are the subject of a recent video by [The Chornobyl Family].

While some robots were more successful than others, with the MF-2 remote mine handling robot suffering electronic breakdowns, gradually the robots became more refined. As over the years the tasks shifted from disaster management to clean-up and management of the now entombed #4 reactor, so too did the robots. TR-4 and TR-5 were two of the later robots that were developed to take samples of material within the stricken reactor, with many more generations to follow.

The video also reveals the fate of many of these robots. Some are buried in a radioactive disposal site, others are found on the Pripyat terrain, whether set up as a tourist piece, or buried in shrubbery. What’s beyond doubt is that it are these robots that provided invaluable help and saved countless lives, thanks to the engineers behind them.

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Rolly Bot Puts A New Spin On Independent Wheel Control

rolly bot

All of [Darcy]’s friends were making wheeled robots, so naturally, he had to make one too. His friends complicated theirs with h-bridges and casters for independent wheel maneuvering, but [Darcy] wanted something simpler. A couple of 9g servos later, the Rolly Bot was born.

Rolly Bot is self-balancing because of its low center of gravity. Should it hit a wall, the body will flip over, driving it back in the other direction. The BOM comes to a whopping $10, and that includes continuous rotation servos. It does not include the remote control capability he added later, or the cost of the CNC you would need to completely replicate this build. He even made a stand so he could test the wheels during programming.

[Darcy]’s code is on his site along with some pictures of another version someone else built. Watch Rolly Bot roll around after the jump.

How would you make this build even simpler? Tell us in the comments.

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The RC White House Robot


This remote controlled, Arduino-based robot was created by a young student named [Quin] who likes to teach electronics classes at hackerspaces. It is an adaptation of this awesome, fast, fully autonomous mini Roomba that has since driven its way into the Presidential building during the 1st ever White House Maker Faire.

The quick, little device uses a robot chassis kit with an XBee wireless module so that the controller and the robot can be connected together. An NFC Shield was hacked and split in half so that the wires could be soldered in place.

[Quin]’s goal was to develop a fun game that records the number of times the robot drives over NFC tags laid across a flat surface. Points are shown in the form of blinking lights that illuminate when the device goes over the sensors, keeping track of the score.

The controller container was made with an open source 3D printer called a Bukobot. The enclosure holds an Arduino and another XBee shield along with a joystick and a neopixel ring, giving it a nice polished look complete with a circle of beautiful, flashing LED’s.

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