Unmanned Aircraft System Swarm for Radiological and Imagery Data Collection

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Center for Innovation and Engineering, Civil and Mechanical Engineering, Nuclear Science and Engineering Research Center, Robotics Research Center, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Publication Date

Winter 1-2019

Publication Title

AIAA SciTech

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


The purpose of this project is to develop a multi-unmanned aerial system (UAS) to aid in forensic collection and analysis efforts in a post-nuclear blast, by providing a radiation gradient heat map and live video overwatch of the area. An interdisciplinary team of 12 West Point cadets and six faculty advisors took on this challenge as part of a senior level academic capstone project. The team adapted swarm technology available from the DARPA 2016-2017 Service Academy Swarm Challenge. Radiation detectors were integrated onto small quadrotors, and video cameras onto small fixed wing UAS. A sequential greedy task assignment algorithm was implemented to enable distributed control of the swarm. Vehicles divided a survey area, and proceeded to self-assigned locations to take measurements. Gamma radiation dose-rate readings were sent to the ground control station, processed, and fused into a single heat map in real-time. The system was demonstrated at the Idaho National Laboratory in an exercise sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Swarms of up to six vehicles successfully collected data at an active radiation site. In addition, the live video overwatch capability was successfully demonstrated on-site, but stability problems with the fixed wing aircraft prevented the team from fully achieving all surveillance objectives.

Record links to items hosted by external providers may require fee for full-text.