EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

RadHawk: a smart UAV for hunting radioactivity

Matteo Albéri1,2, Daniele Cabras3, Enrico Chiarelli1,2, Luca Cicala4, Tommaso Colonna5, Matteo Corbo6, Mario De Cesare4,7,8, Antonio Ferraro3, Jacopo Givoletti6, Enrico Guastaldi5, Andrea Maino1,2, Fabio Mantovani1,2, Massimo Morichi6, Michele Montuschi1,2, Kassandra Giulia Cristina Raptis1,2, Filippo Semenza1,2, Virginia Strati1,2, and Franco Vivaldi6
Matteo Albéri et al.
  • 1Department of Physics and Earth Sciences, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy
  • 2INFN, Ferrara Section, Ferrara, Italy
  • 3DroneLAB Aviation, Nuoro, Italy
  • 4CIRA, Italian Aerospace Research Centre, Capua, Italy
  • 5GeoExplorer Impresa Sociale S.r.l., Arezzo, Italy
  • 6CAEN S.p.A.,Viareggio, Italy.
  • 7Department of Mathematics and Physics, University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”, Caserta, Italy
  • 8INFN, Napoli Section, Complesso Universitario di Monte S. Angelo, Napoli, Italy

Vertical take-off and landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Gamma-Ray Surveys (GRS) provide a cost-effective and timely approach tool for environmental radioactivity mapping. The UAV technique combines the advantages of ground and airborne measurements:  there is no need for an airport for take-off and landing, and high spatial resolution surveys can also be performed in dangerous areas without endangering the operators.

The main limitation of existing UAVs for GRS is the lack of software and hardware integration between avionics systems and radiation detectors. RadHawk fills this gap with an advanced mechanical, electronic, and software connection between a specifically developed quadcopter and a digital Multi-Channel Analyzer GammaStream (GS). The GS is coupled with a 2” CeBr3 scintillator having spectral energy resolution ~60% better than that of a NaI for 137C detection. Communication between the GS onboard microcomputer and the drone’s autopilot Pixhawk is achieved through a custom protocol which allows sharing telemetry updates and executing commands.

The best spatial resolution of radiometric data is achieved through a list mode real-time processing that generates, with optimized acquisition time, energy calibrated georeferenced gamma spectra. A radio frequency transceiver module sends data to a control station, where the user can easily control the flight path and check the artificial radionuclides warning for real-time identifying of hotspots.

A post-processing algorithm based on a Full Spectrum Analysis – Maximum Likelihood Estimation was developed to enhance the identification capability of anthropogenic radionuclides and to produce maps of the K, Th and U abundances of the investigated areas.

How to cite: Albéri, M., Cabras, D., Chiarelli, E., Cicala, L., Colonna, T., Corbo, M., De Cesare, M., Ferraro, A., Givoletti, J., Guastaldi, E., Maino, A., Mantovani, F., Morichi, M., Montuschi, M., Raptis, K. G. C., Semenza, F., Strati, V., and Vivaldi, F.: RadHawk: a smart UAV for hunting radioactivity, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-11835,, 2022.