Small unmanned aircraft system for remote contour mapping of a nuclear radiation field

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering






For nuclear disasters involving radioactive contamination, small unmanned aircraft systems (sUASs) equipped with nuclear radiation detection and monitoring capability can be very important tools. Among the advantages of a sUAS are quick deployment, low-altitude flying that enhances sensitivity, wide area coverage, no radiation exposure health safety restriction, and the ability to access highly hazardous or radioactive areas. Additionally, the sUAS can be configured with the nuclear detecting sensor optimized to measure the radiation associated with the event. In this investigation, sUAS platforms were obtained for the installation of sensor payloads for radiation detection and electro-optical systems that were specifically developed for sUAS research, development, and operational testing. The sensor payloads were optimized for the contour mapping of a nuclear radiation field, which will result in a formula for low-cost sUAS platform operations with built-in formation flight control. Additional emphases of the investigation were to develop the relevant contouring algorithms; initiate the sUAS comprehensive testing using the Unmanned Systems, Inc. (USI) Sandstorm platforms and other acquired platforms; and both acquire and optimize the sensors for detection and localization. We demonstrated contour mapping through simulation and validated waypoint detection. We mounted a detector on a sUAS and operated it initially in the counts per second (cps) mode to perform field and flight tests to demonstrate that the equipment was functioning as designed. We performed ground truth measurements to determine the response of the detector as a function of source-to-detector distance. Operation of the radiation detector was tested using different unshielded sources. © COPYRIGHT SPIE. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.



UNLV article access