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Drone Technology Available for Radiological Monitoring in Emergency Situations

An early demonstration of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for rapid environmental monitoring (May 2013). Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

An IAEA-developed instrumentation and methodology for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) equipped with radiation detectors, cameras and GPS devices has been tested and validated under real conditions in the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan and is now available for practical use in routine or emergency situations.

The radiation detection system with data processing and storage capability was developed and built at the IAEA Nuclear Science and Instrumentation Laboratory (NSIL).

Recently there has been breakthrough advances in UAVs and major developments are expected in the near future, including larger payloads, integrated detectors and sensors, improved self-navigation and the ability for the vehicles to work in cooperation with other UAVs as well as ground systems. The IAEA is currently working on the integration and testing of new, improved instrumentation, including its adaptation to the next generation of UAVs. 

“These novel developments will allow both longer flight time of the UAV and determination of the dose equivalent rates and gamma spectra in a single measurement,” said Danas Ridikas, Head of the IAEA Physics Section. “When combined with high quality camera capabilities, the new system will allow obtaining a full 3D aerial photogrammetry model superimposed with the radiological maps and radionuclide identification.”

A detailed IAEA technical document of the project results, including instrumentation calibration, methodology validation, in-situ dose rate measurements and mapping of the radioactive waste temporary storage sites in Fukushima Prefecture will be made available publicly.

The developed technology, methodology and training opportunities are available to IAEA Member States upon request and are already being implemented in some countries with the Agency’s support.

Adapted from original story by IAEA

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