Remote Handling

Gloveboxes are commonly used in the nuclear industry. However, handling hazardous material within a glovebox can be inefficient and carries many risks.

The Remote Handling Working Group is developing technology to take hands out of gloveboxes, making nuclear decommissioning safer, faster and cheaper. The solution to the glovebox challenge requires integration of robotics and AI. Manipulators, graspers or other end effectors, and specialised platforms that can fit through a glove port can be controlled remotely via VR, or AR. AI can assist with mission planning and object detection. Humans will need to work closely with these systems. Understanding how operators work and could best engage with the technology is key to ensuring they are successful. Workshops and regular feedback from end users and industrial partners is fundamental to developing a remote handling solution that could be used in, or out of, nuclear gloveboxes.

Current priorities for the RHWG are improving user experience, visibility and reusability. The glovebox demonstrator has been hugely improved due to the working group interactions. We will continue to integrate feedback, developing the system towards demonstrations in a nuclear environment.

The RHWG demonstrator

In the RHWG glovebox mock-up there is a bimanual teleoperation system consisting of 2 Kinova Gen3, or 2 KUKA LBRs, with Robotiq grippers. Robotic arms are controlled by HTC VIVEs or gaming controllers. Sensors on the glovebox mock-up include RGB-D and stereo cameras. Information is transferred to a digital twin and virtual reality system. An Operations Management System (OMS) is also incorporated into the digital environment, which can contribute to process management. Other platforms can be used with this system. For example, we used a port to insert a snake arm that can bend into difficult to reach corners.

Key Outputs

  • Designed and produced a glovebox mock-up that can be used to test and demonstrate hands out of gloveboxes solutions.
  • Integrated different robotic platforms and digital systems into the glovebox mock-up at a hackathon event for RAIN researchers.
  • Workshop at the NAMRC with end users to understand usual glovebox operations.
  • Multiple demonstrations to industry visits to end users to understand the key challenges and priorities for a glovebox system.
  • Research developments include optimising grasp pose and contact force distribution, improved manipulator control using optimised criteria, developing optimal and reliable path planning, and shared control for teleoperation and digital twin technologies.

Future Progress

Priorities for the RHWG are further integration of RAIN technology, engaging with nuclear glovebox operators, improving user experience, and demonstrating a range of POCO tasks.

The glovebox demonstrator is continually improving due to the working group interactions. We will continue integrate feedback, working towards an integrated system that can be demonstrated in a nuclear environment.

Take a look at our technologies here!