Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) at Culham Science Centre is a new facility building on the UKAEA’s expertise in operating JET (Joint European Torus) – a system for remote maintenance for future fusion reactors.
It will offer industry and academia access to state-of-the-art testing facilities, remote handling equipment, and expertise to design, implement and operate complete robotic and autonomous solutions.
Challenging Environments exist in numerous sectors – nuclear, petrochemical, space exploration, construction, and mining are examples. The technical hurdle is different for different physical environments and includes radiation, extreme temperature, limited access, vacuum and magnetic fields, but solutions have common features.
The commercial imperative is to enable safe and cost-efficient operations. And as part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), RACE is conducting R&D and commercial activities in the field of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS).
The UKAEA’s primary mission is fusion, and this creates an imperative to develop remotely operated solutions to operate and maintain a fusion reactor. Working with others and learning with the best is the premise of their national and international collaborations.
This is taking the UKAEA into adjacent fields: driverless vehicles, intelligent mobility, smart infrastructure and asset integrity management, as well as advanced control systems, augmented reality and autonomous systems.
RACE TEST is the UKAEA’s centre for standardised, reliable and impartial testing
RACE TEST hosts Europe’s only standardised test facility for ground and air-based robots, developed alongside the US National Institute of Standards and Technology. RACE’s test lanes give developers a chance to measure their performance against international standards while giving end users a space to impartially compare robotics in a controlled environment and an opportunity for consistent and standardised operator training.
RACE operates as one of the UK’s only semi-controlled testbeds allowing the development of driverless cars, sensor technology and intelligent traffic systems in a safe environment. Developed with Millbrook Proving Ground as part of the Meridian testbeds group, RACE operates a 10km road network in the heart of Oxfordshire.
With facilities for both closed track and simulated public road testing, these sites have state of the art autonomous vehicle pit lanes, garages and electric vehicle charging. RACE has the ability to host testing for short term periods or long-term tenants developing autonomous technology.
The National Nuclear User Facility for Robotics (NNUF-R) is an EPSRC funded national nuclear user facility to support UK academia and industry deliver ground-breaking, impactful research in robotics and artificial intelligence for application in extreme and challenging nuclear environments.