Drones To Be Deployed As Nuclear Fallout Detectors

by Jeff McMahon, Forbes.com  |  published on March 15, 2013

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed radiation-detection pods that can monitor airborne radiation using drones, without endangering human flight crews.

The “Harvester” system is designed to detect detonations of nuclear weapons. It can guide a drone to the site of a nuclear explosion by following the plume of gamma radiation where no onboard pilot could safely venture.

The system could also be used to monitor fallout from accidents at nuclear reactors, Sandia officials said.

Two years ago, on March 14, 2011, the National Nuclear Security Administration sent flight crews to Japan to monitor airborne and ground contamination from the still developing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant.

The crews arrived four days after the 24-foot tsunami had swept the plant, and in the ensuing 10 weeks they logged 507 flight hours crisscrossing the skies over Japan in a Beechcraft C-12 twin engine turboprop out of nearby Yokota Air Base.

The crews produced vital maps of the plume of radiation escaping from the crippled reactors.

Had Sandia’s Harvester system been available then, the NNSA might have flown drones instead.

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