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There is an increasing need for the inspection of nuclear power plants worldwide. To access complex underwater structures and perform non-destructive evaluation, robots must be tetherless, compact, highly maneuverable, and have a smooth body shape with minimal appendages. A new water jet propulsion system using fluidic valves coupled with centrifugal pumps is developed for precision maneuvering. A hybrid control system that combines continuous pump regulation and discrete Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) of fluidic valves is proposed. This control scheme provides high accuracy, high bandwidth, and flexibility in maneuvering control. First, the functional requirements for nuclear power plant inspection are discussed, followed by the basic design concept of an inspection robot. Miniaturized Coanda-effect valves are designed and built based on CFD and mathematical analysis. The hybrid control system incorporating the pump/valve system is designed and tested. Experimental results illustrate that the hybrid control scheme holds substantial promise and is capable of very precise orientation control. Based on these, a full 4-DOF robot is designed, and its key components are described.
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