The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration recently announced that it has started using autonomous robot vehicles to patrol the vast desert surrounding its Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). The 1,360+ square miles of territory is home to millions of tons of low grade nuclear waste, as well as Cold War Era nuclear weapons, and cutting edge nuclear testing research. Guarding those precious nuclear materials is the Mobile Detection Assessment Response System (MDARS) robot, which is essentially a camera on a mini-Hummer.
The MDARS can roam and scout the desert on its own, alerting a remote operator when it encounters something that shouldn’t be there. Human controllers get real time video feed form the bot and can communicate with trespassers using speakers and a microphone.
NNSA estimates that each robot saves about $6 million in infrastructure costs by removing the need for stationary cameras, sensors, and wired connections. There's just one MDARS robot on patrol now, but NNSA plans on adding two more in the next six months.
View a video of the MDARS robot operating at the Nevada National Security Site.
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