Radiological Mapping of Post-disaster Nuclear Environments Using Fixed-wing Unmanned Aerial Systems: A Study from Chernobyl

Dean T Connor, Kieran Wood, Peter George Martin, Sevda Goren, Dave Megson-Smith, Yannick S R Verbelen, Ihor Chyzhevskyi, Serhii Kirieiev, Nick Smith, Tom S Richardson, Thomas Bligh Scott

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

27 Citations (Scopus)
414 Downloads (Pure)


In the immediate aftermath following a large-scale release of radioactive material into the environment, it is necessary to determine the spatial distribution of radioactivity quickly. At present, this is conducted by utilizing manned aircraft equipped with large-volume radiation detection systems. Whilst these are capable of mapping large areas quickly, they suffer from a low spatial resolution due to the operating altitude of the aircraft. They are also expensive to deploy and their manned nature means that the operators are still at risk of exposure to potentially harmful ionizing radiation. Previous studies have identified the feasibility of utilizing unmanned aerial systems (UASs) in monitoring radiation in post-disaster environments. However, the majority of these systems suffer from a limited range or are too heavy to be easily integrated into regulatory restrictions that exist on the deployment of UASs worldwide. This study presents a new radiation mapping UAS based on a lightweight (8 kg) fixed-wing unmanned aircraft and tests its suitability to mapping post-disaster radiation in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). The system is capable of continuous flight for more than 1 h and can resolve small scale changes in dose-rate in high resolution (sub-20 m). It is envisaged that with some minor development, these systems could be utilized to map large areas of hazardous land without exposing a single operator to a harmful dose of ionizing radiation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number149
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Robotics and AI
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2020


  • Radiation
  • Chernobyl
  • UAS (unmanned aircraft system
  • fixed-wing aerial surveys
  • Post-disaster
  • Cesium
  • nuclear
  • Drones (UAV)


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