U.S. to Japan aid: ‘eye in the sky’ to check reactors



New ‘eye in the sky’ to check reactors

Tokyo Electric Power Co. will use a U.S.-developed unmanned vehicle to inspect and take aerial photos of the outer reactor buildings of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the utility said Saturday.

TEPCO will soon conduct a test flight of the small, remote-controlled vehicle that was originally designed for military surveillance purposes, the company said.

Equipped with two video cameras, the T-Hawk micro air vehicle will help gauge the extent of the damage at the plant and determine what is happening inside the reactor buildings and other structures, according to TEPCO.

T-Hawk was developed by Honeywell International Inc. of New Jersey.

The oddly shaped 7.7-kilogram “eye in the sky” is a 30-centimeter-diameter disk with a rotating wing and four legs.

Powered by a gasoline engine, the all-weather T-Hawk can be operated from up to 10 kilometers away, according to TEPCO. Its global positioning system allows the T-Hawk to hover precisely where directed, it said.

Honeywell developed the vehicle as part of a small unmanned aerial vehicle program sponsored with a budget of 40 million dollars by the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The T-Hawk can be used for surveillance work in areas too dangerous for humans to enter, such as places with high radiation levels, TEPCO said.

Honeywell employees sent from the United States will operate the T-Hawk, TEPCO said.

(Apr. 10, 2011)


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