University of Bristol bring cutting edge robotics to nuclear research


By Sarah Dalton, SciTech Editor

Following the launch of the University of Bristol’s four new ‘Hot Robotics’ facilities, Bristol leads the way in UK atomic research

‘Hot Robotics’ facilities, known formally as the National Nuclear User Facility for Hot Robotics (NNUF-HR), exist to make robotics, drones and testing spaces more readily available to academic and industry researchers. The University of Bristol’s launch of four new Hot Robotics facilities hopes to aid ground-breaking nuclear research.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPRC), these University of Bristol sites are strategically placed around the UK in Somerset, Oxfordshire, Whitehaven and Cumbria.

These facilities provide technology and test spaces that would otherwise be very difficult and expensive to access

Each facility, available for use by the whole UK nuclear energy community, provides technology and test spaces that would otherwise be very difficult and expensive to access. Academic researchers can work directly with engineers and operations staff, hiring ground-breaking equipment such as quadruped robots and drones, as well as bringing their own technology to test in different simulated environments.

The University of Bristol’s Fenswood facility, based close to home in Somerset, offers 245 acres of space for testing drones and ground robots.

Professor Rob Buckingham, Director of the Oxfordshire-based facility, explained that: 'The purpose of NNUF is to accelerate the development of capability and capacity in the supply chain, from invention to scaled-up operations, in robotics and smart machines.'

'Hot Robotics' sites ensure the robotics being developed address real industrial challenges | Unsplash/Kilian Karger

Professor Tom Scott, NNUF-HR Academic lead from the University of Bristol added: 'As someone who has worked in the field for many years, the fact we now have these four fantastic facilities and a website where users can actually select from a wide range of cutting-edge equipment to hire, I would say is truly a game-changer.'

By allowing academics and industry researchers to work together, these ‘Hot Robotic’ sites ensure that the robotic systems being developed address real industrial challenges.

The introduction of a Hot Robotics website is another first-of-its-kind for the industry. Following the numerous COVID-19 lockdowns, this virtual addition allows users to view, book and learn more about the technology and facilities at the four sites from their own homes.

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'We’re pleased to see the NNUF-funded Hot Robotics facilities come online, offering a wide range of innovative robotics equipment to serve key nuclear industry clusters around the country,' the NNUF Management Group told Epigram.

'We urge both academia and industry to make use of these facilities and look forward to seeing researchers advance the technologies to solve challenges in the nuclear sector.'

Featured Image: Epigram/University of Bristol

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