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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Footprint and height corrections for UAV-borne gamma-ray spectrometry studies

van der Veeke, S.; Limburg, J.; Koomans, R. L.; Soderstrom, M.; Waal, S. N. de; Graaf, E. R. van der


Advancements in the development of gamma-ray spectrometers (GRS) have led to small and lightweight spectrometers that can be used under unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Airborne GRS measurements are used to determine radionuclide concentrations in the ground, among which the natural occurring radionuclides K-40, U-238, and Th-232. For successful applications of these GRS sensors, it is important that absolute values of concentrations can be measured. To extract these absolute radionuclide concentrations, airborne gamma-ray data has to be corrected for measurement height. However, the current analysis models are only valid for the height range of 50-250 m. The purpose of this study is to develop a procedure that correctly predicts the true radionuclide concentration in the ground when measuring in the UAV operating range of 0-40 m. An analytical model is developed to predict the radiation footprint as a function of height. This model is used as a tool to properly determine a source-detector geometry to be used in Monte-Carlo simulations of detector response at various elevations between 0 and 40 m. The analytical model predicts that the smallest achievable footprint at 10 m height lies between 22 and 91 m and between 40 and 140 m at 20 m height. By using Monte-Carlo simulations it is shown that the analytical model correctly predicts the reduction in full energy peak gamma-rays, but does not predict the Compton continuum of a spectrum as a function of height. Therefore, Monte-Carlo simulations should be used to predict the shape and intensity of gamma-ray spectra as a function of height. A finite set of Monte-Carlo simulations at intervals of 5 m were used for the analysis of GRS measurements at heights up to 35 m. The resulting radionuclide concentrations at every height agree with the radionuclide concentration measured on the ground.


Airborne gamma-ray spectrometry (GRS); Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); Monte-Carlo simulations; Full spectrum analysis; Radiation footprint

Published in

Journal of Environmental Radioactivity
2021, Volume: 231, article number: 106545Publisher: ELSEVIER SCI LTD

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences

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