WP1: Unmanned aerial detection of radiological data

The aim of this work package is to develop, test and validate metrologically traceable systems and methods for unmanned aerial detection of radiological data. This will involve remote measurements of ambient dose equivalent rates and radionuclide e.g. Cs-137 or Cs-134 ground concentrations using rotary-wing unmanned airborne monitoring systems (RWUAMS) herein called multi-rotor UAVs and commonly named ‘drones’, with spectrometry systems mounted on them. RWUAMS have the advantages of hovering capabilities and independent movement in three dimensions. Furthermore, as indicated in the report EUR 27224 EN (2015), “This application of mobile [measurements] is not mature; it is still in a research state. Hence, it is driven by funded projects. The market for commercial systems is limited”.

In case of a nuclear accident or radiological event such as the aftermath of criminal actions, radioactive materials may pose a severe impact on individuals near the site of the incident and environmental burden. In these cases, rapid and extensive environmental radiation measurements using mobile equipment is essential in order to facilitate early and effective response. The use of unmanned airborne monitoring systems (UAMS), which comprises the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) itself with measuring devices and the ground control station, is an important tool for the detection of radioactivity in areas where their contamination might be a risk for a helicopter crew and where accessibility is difficult for emergency teams because of collapsing structures or a complex topography.

Considering deployment during accident conditions the systems must be reliable and robust. Measured data format and their transmission must be standardized and optimized for accident responders. The employment of highly compact, reliable, spectrometric detectors and electromagnetically insusceptible electronics for data acquisition, processing and transmission is a challenge. As a carrier, an UAV with sufficient payload and flying range will be used. The aerial test sites with standard sources for traceability management will be established to carry out measurement campaigns for calibration and validation of the systems. The systems will be tested, calibrated and validated within measurement campaigns and comparisons.

To address these issues, investigations of the current status of airborne monitoring systems will be performed in Task 1.1 to explore the technical and legal background in order to prepare the following practical research and design stages. In Task 1.2, unmanned airborne monitoring systems will be developed by equipping drones with modern detectors systems, which allow traceable radiation measurements. First test are also included in this task. In Task 1.3, the software tools will be developed for acquisition, processing, transmission and analysis of data produced by unmanned aerial monitoring systems. In Task 1.4, the test and calibration procedures for airborne monitoring systems will be developed. Finally, in Task 1.5, test sites will be prepared so that traceable calibrations and measurements are possible and novel aerial systems will be tested to study their performance and possible limitations. Standard measuring procedures will be defined.

Appropriate environmental and health & safety procedures conforming to relevant national guidelines and/or legislation will be followed, especially in regards to investigations performed in dedicated aerial test sites by using radioactive reference sources and during the development and application of mobile systems (unmanned aerial vehicles). Before every outdoor measurement campaign (to be carried out in this and in WP2), permissions will be obtained from the local authorities, which will ensure that national radiation laws and regulations are fulfilled. By doing this, the protection both of the involved staff and of members of the public is guaranteed.