Back in 2019, a multidisciplinary team was formed out of Bristol University and the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR), who set out to generate a radiation map spanning the entire 10km2 of the Red Forest surrounding Chernobyl.
NCNR are no strangers to complex tech; their team are experts in AI, machine learning, electronics, and sensors. It’s no big deal, they’re just working towards a ‘small’ goal of cleaning up Britain’s 4.9-million tonnes of legacy nuclear waste…
A disaster with lasting impact
Despite the fact the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred 36 years ago, the damaging effects of the blast can still be observed today, the most visually prominent being the burning-red pine trees killed from the high levels of radiation, still standing. Spooky!
Although not visible to the human eye, the radioactive material released into the atmosphere and surrounding area from the blast is also long-lasting, due to the time it takes for the radioactive sources to decay. As a result, it is important to measure and monitor the radiation levels here overtime, to confirm when and where it is safe people to re-enter the area.
Now that’s high-flying tech
NCNR and Prof Tom Scott’s team set out to achieve just this: to confirm if the overall levels of radiation were what they expected, and to identify any hotspots. How they planned to do this was to generate a radiation map spanning the entirety of the Red Forest, in such detail never achieved before.
Of course, this highly skilled team required some high-flying tech (literally) to complete their mission. By loading 2 of our SIGMA 50 scintillator detectors onto a fixed-wing UAV, the team were able to produce a general radiation map of the entirety of the Red Forest. As fixed wing UAVs fly higher, quicker and for longer than rotary UAVs, the team were able fly the fixed wing UAV to take multiple surveys over this large area. They flew the drone at 40mph in a grid pattern just above the tree line, completing 50 missions over a period of 10 days.
While flying, the SIGMA 50 detectors, were able to collect radiation data over the entire area, identifying places of interest where rotary UAVs were then deployed to hover over, acquiring high resolution, 3D information for more detailed analysis and mapping.
Watch the drones in action!
Teamwork makes the dream work
Overall, the team were very successful in their efforts, confirming the radiation levels they expected to be true. They were also able to identify various radioactive hotspots, some previously unknown and unexpected.
You can find out more about the team’s amazing findings here!
And there’s more!
Believe it or not, this is not all this tech can do. Our UAV radiation mapping drone systems can be paired with a variety of radiation detectors as well as the SIGMA 50 to create solution specific to your research, emergency response or security-related problem.