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Semi-autonomous aeroradiometric system

|   Call 2018

Leveraging unmanned semi-autonomous aerial vehicles for real-time generation of radiation maps at ground level incorporating shielding effects from the terrain and 3D environment.

Action forces during missions with radioactive hazardous substances are often exposed to immense unpredictable risks because of missing or inaccurate information. Maps of the actual topography, infrastructure and radioactivity on the ground pose critical information but are often not available for the incident area. Based on our conducted research, currently there is no system available which provides high-resolution, actual 3D terrain maps in combination with radioactivity data on the ground level in a fast, efficient and reliable way. This project aims to close this gap by developing a semi-autonomous aerial radiation detection system with the ability to generate ground radiation maps in real-time.

The usage of helicopter-based systems leads to limitations regarding flight height and therefore is strongly limited in urban areas, which unfortunately are the main target of terror attacks. Whilst maintaining the flexibility of all components to be independent of the carrier platform and to be used with existing helicopter platforms, the proposed system is based on UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems). For the first time, this allows an operation in urban areas in a relatively low flight height (below 90m).

Current radiation measurement systems on helicopters require post-processing of acquired data, which leads to significant delays in the availability of the data especially in time-critical situations. The goal of this project is, to implement a modular platform for research and demonstration purposes with the ability to fly semi-autonomously and process live measurements already online whilst being in air. The acquired measurements will be visualized in a proper way with live progressive updates so that it supports operators in the best possible way. On the other hand, radiation data will be used to update and correct the flight route with regards to fast and efficient localization of radiation sources.

One of the major innovations presented here, is the combination of a highly accurate 3D LIDAR Scanner with a specific gamma radiation probe on an UAS in real time (< 120 seconds). Conventional systems use GPS height data, radar or laser to obtain the height during the flight. Especially in urban or mountain areas with abundant vegetation this is prone to errors. Using 3D LIDAR, a highly accurate 3D terrain map of the actual site can be generated even if no map material is available for the specific area. This data is combined with radiation data to, on the one hand improve navigation, and on the other hand to correct the calculation and extrapolation of ground radiation values. The aim is to create a reliable ground radiation map. The terrain map provides 3D information about actual buildings and vegetation which have a significant shielding effect on radiation and must be considered when calculating ground radiation data. Radiation data and 3D LIDAR measurements are acquired and processed in real-time to automatically determine live flight routes for a more efficient search. Additionally, the system should support different kinds of radionuclides and consider the type of radionuclide when calculating dose rates on ground level.

Federal Ministry of Finance
Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG)