Flyability Elios 2 drone tested inside a Chernobyl reactor

Flyability partnered with DroneUA to conduct a test of their drone hardware and software at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The “mission goal” was determining whether nuclear waste was present in reactor 5.

At the time of the Chernobyl disaster, the fifth block of the Chernobyl Plant was under construction and nearing completion.

The Elios 2 is commonly used for inspections at nuclear power plants, where it can help improve safety and significantly reduce turnaround times (i.e., the amount of time the plant is shut down for inspection and maintenance purposes). However, this was the first time a Flyability drone was involved in tests to check it’s effectiveness in decommissioning a nuclear power plant.

“The Chernobyl mission was stressful, because the wall we had to fly over was 70 meters [230 feet] high, so there was no way we could get the drone back if the signal was lost,” says Charles Rey, the Training Manager at Flyability and one of the mission’s leaders. “But the mission was a great success, and the people in charge at Chernobyl were very happy with the video and images we were able to collect inside Reactor Five.”

The Chernobyl decommissioning team had little experience with using drones to collect visual data remotely. The Elios 2 presented a unique tool for the work, since it sits inside a protective cage, allowing it to enter confined indoor spaces in order to collect visual data for inspection purposes.

Although the reactor is structurally sound, access to the areas within it where nuclear waste might have been stored was impossible because the entries were too high off the ground. To conduct the mission, Flyability pilots stood in the middle of the reactor, in a pit that was about 25 meters (82 feet) deep—a location that would have been inaccessible if the reactor was still active. 

Using the Elios 2, pilots were able to fly into Reactor Five and collect enough visual data to determine that the pools were empty and there was no nuclear waste present anywhere inside. 

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