The new technology can be used in a wide range of activities related to both routine radiation situations and emergencies. In addition to monitoring changes in the radiation situation or creating radiation maps, it will offer assistance, for example, in fires at radiological facilities, searching for stolen radiation sources, accidents during transport of radioactive material or scanning large areas.
"Unlike today's common dosimetry technology, our small sensors can determine not only the presence of radiation but also the direction from which the radiation is coming. This speeds up the whole search many times over," explains Jan Jakůbek, Scientific Director of ADVACAM.
Compared to current systems, a drone with on-board artificial intelligence can use a combination of small size and high mobility to search for the source very quickly, even in difficult to access terrain. "The detection technology is capable of capturing and identifying individual radiation particles in real time. This enables RaDron to find the radiation source significantly more efficiently than is possible today, at an incomparably lower acquisition cost. In addition, we have demonstrated in the project that the possibility of deploying a team of cooperating drones makes it possible to accurately locate even a moving radiation source, which is very difficult and in many cases practically impossible with current technology," says Assoc. Martin Saska, head of the Multirobotic Systems Group at the Department of Cybernetics at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, CTU in Prague.
Among the wide competences of the Řež Nuclear Power Plant is also the solution of detections of unknown radiation sources. "Detection of sources of radioactive radiation can sometimes be very problematic, but the speed of tracking and securing them is crucial for the protection of the health of the population and the environment. Subsequent identification of radionuclides, characterisation and eventual disposal already takes place in the safe environment of our laboratories," confirms the benefits of the project Karel Prchal, Head of the Radioactive Waste Management Department at ÚJV Řež.
The Timepix3 chips are the core
The aim of the RaDron project was to test a new method to detect standing or even moving radiation sources as quickly as possible. During three years of research, funded by the Czech Technology Agency, they have experimentally demonstrated that a detector connected to an autonomous drone can reliably locate a sample of radioactive Cesium-137 in an area of 1000 m2 within two minutes. At the core of the RaDron technology are Timepix3 chips, which provide the system with a complete set of information about each radiation particle captured. This makes them an exceptionally powerful tool for dosimetry and for describing the radiation field. In addition, the chip can act as a so-called Compton camera, which can determine the direction from which the particles are striking the sensor. This means that there is no need to systematically sweep the entire area. The drone can head straight for the target.
RaDron can also be deployed indoors
The prototype of the device developed in cooperation with Czech companies within the TA CR TREND programme, Subprogramme 1 "Technological Leaders" is already ready for deployment at the end customer. Academics from FEL CTU are able to customize the drone software (autonomous search and source identification by one or a group of drones), ADVACAM s.r.o and Fly4Future s.r.o will prepare a specific application of the drone with Timepix ionizing radiation detector tailored for the end user of the system. The ADVACAM detector, which was developed in cooperation with CERN, is also a supplier to the US NASA. The offered drone is available in a variant for outdoor flight with GPS or in a variant for deployment indoors and near obstacles where GPS signal is not available and the drone uses unique software developed by scientists from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of CTU for its navigation.
Wherever RaDron can be used
● Accidents during the transport of radioactive material
● Fires in radiology departments of hospitals
● Nuclear accidents
● Searching for stolen radiation sources
● Systematic scanning of areas of interest and creation of radiation maps
● Identification of the type of radiation source
● Monitoring changes in the radiation situation
More about the RaDron project:
Multirobotic Systems Group (MRS), Faculty of Electrical Engineering, CTU
The Multirobotic Systems (MRS) Group, operating at the Department of Cybernetics, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, CTU in Prague, uses a globally unique technology of very precise helicopter control, which proves to be significantly the most reliable and successful of all competing solutions. The ability to fly very accurately, and therefore safely, is crucial for deployment in a wide range of situations, especially near obstacles, in confined spaces and building interiors.
The team has made significant progress in the development of these technologies over several years of intensive research in collaboration with the world's leading laboratories. Today's drones can move autonomously along a predetermined safe route while responding to unexpected obstacles. The group flight and stabilization capabilities of low-flying drones are already being tested by researchers from Charles Square in the areas of searching and rescuing people in inaccessible terrains underground or in the desert, mapping historical interiors or monitoring power line poles, among others.
UJV Rez, Radioactive Waste and Decommissioning Division profile
We are the only company in the Czech Republic that covers the complete chain of services in the field of radioactive waste (RAW) management from its detection and identification, through its treatment and processing (disposal) to its preparation for safe storage. We are qualified for all the activities we offer, including all the necessary authorisations of the SAJB.
Radioactive waste management in our competence includes:
- Detection, identification and characterisation of RAOs, including the discovery of unknown or abandoned sources of ionising radiation (IR),
- collection, sorting, storage, transport, treatment and conditioning of institutional RAO (RAO disposal),
- support for technologies for the treatment and conditioning of RAO,
- development and support for the operation of RAO repositories,
- accredited measurements of radionuclides and nuclear materials.
We process and treat for disposal more than 95% of RAO (solid and liquid) generated in the Czech Republic in industry, hospitals and other sites. A separate complex area of our RAO management services is the decommissioning of nuclear facilities and sites with sources of ionising radiation.
Since 2007, we have been providing comprehensive services for the transportation of spent nuclear fuel from research reactors in an international environment.
ADVACAM brings global innovation in advanced imaging research and in the development and manufacture of particle cameras capable of detecting and counting every single photon of incident radiation.
Founded in 2013, the company was created based on breakthrough technologies developed through international scientific collaboration at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
ADVACAM's patented detectors are among the most advanced imaging technologies in the world. These breakthrough cameras are used in a wide range of industries for diverse applications. For example, for measuring radiation conditions on the International Space Station (ISS), for European Space Agency (ESA) communication satellites, for mineral analysis in the mining industry, for non-destructive testing in aviation, non-invasive medical imaging and even for fine art inspection.
ADVACAM Communications Manager
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