Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs), together with the miniaturisation of computers, sensors, and electronics, offer new remote sensing applications. However, there is a lack of hardware and software support to effectively develop the potential of UASs in different remote sensing applications, such as the detection of radioactive sources. This paper presents the design, development and validation of a UAS for the detection of an uncontrolled and point radioactive source. The article describes a flexible and reusable software architecture for detecting the radioactive source (NaTcO
Tc) with a gamma-ray Cadmium Zinc Telluride (CZT) spectrometer as a proof of concept. The UAS is equipped with multichannel air-ground communications to perform missions beyond line of sight and onboard computation to process samples in real time and thus react to any anomaly detected during the mission. An ad hoc ground control station (GCS) has also been developed for the correct interpretation of the radioactive samples taken by the UAS. Radiological spectra plots, contour mapping and waterfall plots are some of the elements used in the ad hoc GCS. The article shows the results obtained in a flight campaign performing different flights at different altitudes and speeds over the radiological source, demonstrating the viability of the system.
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