In a first for the National Trust, a robotic “dog” has been deployed to survey two Cold War weapons testing facilities. The off-limits buildings at Orford Ness, Suffolk, a national nature reserve and former military testing site, were surveyed using drones and a mobile robot. The aim of the survey was to capture the buildings’ size and geometry.
The buildings, known as pagodas, were used as test cells for conducting environmental tests on atomic bombs. The tests simulated the conditions to which a weapon might be exposed before detonation, including vibration, temperature extremes, shocks, and G forces. The laboratories were built with a shingle top to absorb and dissipate energy in the event of a failure and to minimize the risk of a catastrophic explosion.
The National Trust’s general manager, Russell Clement, expressed the importance of recording these inaccessible buildings before they are lost to the sea. The use of the robotic “dog,” nicknamed Spot, provided a cutting-edge technological solution to surveying hazardous areas that are too dangerous for humans.
The project is a collaborative effort between the National Trust, Historic England, civil engineering contractors BAM Nuttall, and University College London. BAM Nuttall’s innovations and technical lead, Colin Evison, highlighted the ability of robotics to capture detailed surveys without putting people at risk. The data collected will not only be used to recreate the buildings virtually but also to provide visitors with a glimpse inside these remarkable structures.
The National Trust described this survey as the first time it has utilized this type of technology. Moving forward, the captured data will allow people to access and experience the interiors of these exceptional Cold War buildings virtually.
– BBC News
– National Trust