Lightweight aerial vehicles for monitoring, assessment and mapping of radiation anomalies

J. W. MacFarlane*, O. D. Payton, A. C. Keatley, G. P T Scott, H. Pullin, R. A. Crane, M. Smilion, I. Popescu, V. Curlea, T. B. Scott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (FDNPP) incident released a significant mass of radioactive material into the atmosphere. An estimated 22% of this material fell out over land following the incident. Immediately following the disaster, there was a severe lack of information not only pertaining to the identity of the radioactive material released, but also its distribution as fallout in the surrounding regions. Indeed, emergency aid groups including the UN did not have sufficient location specific radiation data to accurately assign exclusion and evacuation zones surrounding the plant in the days and weeks following the incident. A newly developed instrument to provide rapid and high spatial resolution assessment of radionuclide contamination in the environment is presented. The device consists of a low cost, lightweight, unmanned aerial platform with a microcontroller and integrated gamma spectrometer, GPS and LIDAR. We demonstrate that with this instrument it is possible to rapidly and remotely detect ground-based radiation anomalies with a high spatial resolution (<1m). Critically, as the device is remotely operated, the user is removed from any unnecessary or unforeseen exposure to elevated levels of radiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-130
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

Structured keywords

  • Engineering Mathematics Research Group


  • Characterisation
  • Gamma spectrometry
  • Radiation monitoring
  • Unmanned aerial system


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