Boston Dynamics’ iconic robot dog, Spot, has gained a new job: sniffing out toxic radiation levels at abandoned nuclear power plants near Chernobyl. He’s currently being employed by UK researchers at the University of Bristol to measure radiation and help map out heat zones in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and surrounds.
Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone has long been a place of scientific fascination since the nuclear disaster of 1986 that rendered the city of Pripyat an irradiated ghost town.
In the decades since the accident, teams of scientists have visited the site to understand more about how nuclear radiation impacts genetics and the natural environment. It’s also become a popular site for disaster tourists curious about the morbid nature of the incident.
Spot’s job kicked off in late October, when it was sent into Pripyat to analyse the surrounds alongside a crew of other manned drones. The robot is designed to traverse rugged terrains and can use a 360 degree vision to map environments. Unlike humans, it also has a natural resistance to radiation, making it one of the few devices able to complete a task like this safely.
In addition to mapping the environments around Pripyat, Spot the robot dog will also be used to test how robotics react in extreme environments.
While this very good boy will mostly have to complete tasks on his own, the good news is the wilds of Pripyat aren’t inhospitable to other wildlife. Over the years, there’s been multiple reports about wild dogs roaming the borders of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in large packs. Many of these dogs descend from the families who previously lived in Pripyat, and they’ve learned to survive in the inhospitable lands around Northern Ukraine.
Spot’s journey will be very lonely, but the least we can hope is he finds some friendly dog companions along the way.
You can view the very beginnings of Spot’s work, courtesy of the Chornobyl NPP YouTube channel, here:
Godspeed, little buddy. We wish you luck on your quest.