Fukushima had special visitors drop by— drones remapped the surrounding territory in abandoned villages and towns that had been severely affected by the disaster. The nuclear meltdown has left the towns in the area and close by in ruins. President of Drone Adventures Adam Klaptocz told the Voice of Russia in an exclusive interview that one of the villages had “an eerie sense of peace” to it and that the project took two days to complete. It has been three long years since the blasts from the power plant in Fukushima shook Japan’s residents.
A profound earthquake that hit a magnitude of nine along with a tsunami wreaked havoc on Japan’s eastern coast and mother nature did not forget to leave out Fukushima’s power station, creating a larger than life problem not just for the Japanese, but also for exporters who purchase goods from the island country. An estimated 150,000 people from the prefecture are still evacuated from the region and have been put up in temporary housing units. A large handful of villages are actually too contaminated for people to even come by, let along live in.
Everybody has the burning question on their mind about cleanup efforts as well as how the reconstruction is coming along in the unstable territory. Non-profit organization Drone Adventures joined forces with Taichi Furuhashi, researcher at the Center for Spatial Information Science at the University of Tokyo, to try and find concrete answers to their questions through a mapping venture. Three towns were chosen in the Fukushima area including Tomioka, Hisanohama, and Iidate village to not just map the districts, but also to understand how badly they had been struck by the past catastrophes. Two senseFly eBee drones were responsible for the mapping initiative of the three preselected places of interest (one of the UAVs can be seen in the picture).
Tomioka is believed to be one of the most hard-hit towns as it is roughly six miles from the Daiichi Fukushima reactor. Debris is still present in this zone and has not been completely cleared of the damage. When taking a look at this town, it seems to be very striking compared to the other ones. “Upturned cars are piled up in the fields or against half-collapsed houses,” President of Drone Adventures Adam Klaptocz told the Voice of Russia, “The train station lays in ruins, its tracks now overgrown with weeds that hide all the tracks.” Unfinished business exists in this town but thanks to the mapping efforts of Drone Adventures, it was able to assess the area to understand how the territory has changed over the passing years. A picture from the town can be seen below.
Another place that attracted the unmanned aerial vehicles of Drone Adventures was Hisanohama. Almost 19 miles south of the nuclear warzone, this village is situated just right outside the exclusion region. Although the citizens have cleared away the mounds of rubble and returned back to town, problems persist. “Houses on hillsides are now lived in, whereas the coastal areas have empty foundations,” Klaptocz explained, as the coastal region had been previously hit by a devastating tsunami. Two flights were carried out in this town and thanks to a MapBox Satellite base layer in the dataset available, a good deal of headway can be seen in the cleanup efforts. Data was donated by local municipality authorities in order to contribute to the restoration process. Its area looks grim (as seen below).
Though, one of the most fascinating towns that Drone Adventures might have flown around in was Iidate village. Around 37 miles away from Fukushima Daiichi and basically left untouched, it was still vitally important for residents to flee from that region. In fact, the area was in a direct line of fire of the winds when the explosions went off at units 1, 3, and 4 of the power plant. Due to the unsettling wind, this small village was exposed to the highest levels of contamination involving radioactive matter. When Drone Adventures paid a visit, workers could be seen with huge excavators and heavy-duty trucks. Contaminated top level soil was being stuffed into enormous plastic bags, then put in the trucks to likely be transported out of the region.
Silence fills the village, as residents have been prohibited from moving back since evacuating the region. Instead of cars filling up the parking lots, the concrete slab has become contaminated soil’s new home, at least temporarily. It is believed that the soil will then be shipped off to a permanent, and most likely pricey, storage unit far away from the light of day. In the picture below, workers can be seen trying to sort out the mess.
A few noises can be heard in Iidate village, stemming from domestic and foreign entities. Local wild boar may be heard digging up the abandoned terrain while foreign drones fly high through the sky, scanning the area to execute a groundbreaking remapping project. But even if the activity in the region might look on the outside as normal or getting there, “there’s an eerie sense of peace in Iidate village,” according to the president of Drone Adventures. For the most part the town has not felt any ill effects by the past earthquake or tsunami. Though, once the nuclear reactor started acting up “the town seems to have been evacuated calmly, as if the citizens were expecting to be gone just for a short time,” Klaptocz said to the Voice of Russia.
Drones got ready for their take off at an abandoned school in the village, with books, chairs and desks still intact. Greenhouses that used to flourish now are flooded with weeds. Two flights were launched in that particular part from a baseball field while one was done in a rice field. The forest areas, close by meadows and the village in its entirety were successfully mapped thanks to the drones’ efforts. From all different altitudes, heaps of contaminated dirt was visible from a bird’s eye view. Below a picture, courtsey of Drone Adventures, shows the unkept greenhouse.
When the non-profit firm was packing up its drones to leave Japan, a mini earthquake shook up the ground. On the radio, the announcer reported that no type of tsunami was expected. “It was a small reminder that despite all the efforts since the disaster three years ago, Japan remains at the mercy of the fault line it is built on,” Klaptocza said on droneadventures.org. Intricate mapped out details can be seen on Drone Adventures’ post on Fukushima, by zooming in and out of the different images.
Information collected through this peaceful mapping mission was initially presented to Japan’s government officials by Drone Adventures partner in goodwill Taichi. Local conferences have also showed off the data to raise awareness about the current conditions of the regions that were damaged in different ways by the Fukushima fallout. While these small towns got an upgrade through remapping efforts, the time it took was quite minimal. Three towns were assessed in just 48 hours. While residents are still recovering from Fukushima’s wrath, it is pleasant to see that progress is being made in the area, through the help of drones. Many pictures were taken of the drones’ progress in Japan, and those shown here, have all been provided courtesy of Drone Adventures.
Voice of Russia: http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_04_18/photo-Fukushima-gets-visitors-drones-remap-territory-in-abandoned-eerie-villages-7987/