Visual inspections for the nuclear sector are often conducted manually by an inspector scrutinising the entirety of an asset. Sometimes crawling robots may be used to automate the process. However, these robots are limited in their ability to access different environments (at height for instance), and mainly useful for small volumes.
Similarly, drones are used to automate the process on large areas but can be limited by constraints especially in complex environments where collision is a real risk.
That is also true when it comes to collecting radiometric data, with the added risk of potential exposure to radiation or incomplete data set when no effective deployment solution can be found.
Understanding the locations and levels of radiation in these same environments is a continuous undertaking and a few drones have been developed to ease that pain. One elegant solution, with the ability to safely map a complex environment in 3D, even in a GPS denied environment, has been upgraded with radiometric capabilities to present an impressive and intuitive solution leading the way for a new generation of inspection tools.
Flyability is a Swiss company launched in 2014. They build solutions for the inspection and exploration of indoor, inaccessible, and confined spaces. By allowing drones to be used safely inside buildings, it enables industrial companies and inspection professionals to reduce downtime, inspection costs, and risks to workers.
Flyability created the first collision-tolerant caged drone for internal inspections, enabling remote data collection with cutting edge hardware and software to help improve safety, reduce downtimes, and cut costs for the inspections of complex environments.
Flyability’s Elios 3 (launched in May 2022) carries a LiDAR sensor and is specifically designed for the inspection of confined spaces. It can survey in live stream and render 3D maps in real-time, even in GPS-denied environments. These 3D maps are detailed enough that inspectors can use them to orient themselves within an environment, and fly only by referencing them. The Elios 3 RAD (available since mid-2023) is an upgrade for the nuclear industry and can perform fast and accurate radiation surveying of indoor spaces while limiting human exposure.
At inTechBrew, we thought that Flyability’s Elios 3 was already a great tool. Now as the Elios 3 RAD, it has all it takes to perform safely in the most complex environments (such as trenches or silos) and give valuable insights on radiation levels.
Equipped with a Mirion Technologies Perform RDS-32™ WR sensor, it certainly can help nuclear site operators reach higher safety standards infrastructure and asset management either during maintenance or decommissioning operations without having to expose humans to radiation.
The Elios 3 RAD unique design, collision avoidance capabilities and radiation survey capabilities make for a top-notch tool. It also has been successfully tested at 10,000 R/h with up to 4,000 R of cumulated dose. Impressive and off-the-shelf.
Sellafield Ltd – Capability testing
Sellafield Ltd, UK, 2023
INTEC – Storage Vault 3D Mapping (2022)
Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center, Idaho National Laboratory Site, USA
In 2022, the Elios 3 was the first mapping and inspection indoor drone which offered an unmatched combination of intelligence, versatility, and stability.
In 2023, with the Elios 3 RAD, and its radiometric payload, Flyability gave professionals new options for improved safety and access – from measuring radiation levels to identifying maintenance needs.
Comprehensive in-flight radiation reading:
Instant reading. No exposure.
Get an instant reading of current and cumulative dose rate along with max recorded value and measurement history to understand measurement trends and help you find high radiation sources.
Post-flight radiation reading, localisation, and reporting:
Locating and characterising hot spots.
While in flight, all measurements captured by the sensor are recorded along with visual and mapping information. In post-processing, the drone’s trajectory is colourised based on the instant dose rate reading, allowing the user to precisely locate radiation sources on a 3D map of the asset.
Detachable and swappable sensor (Mirion RDS32).
Critical applications like radiation surveying should not be left to uncertainties. For reliable information, the Elios 3 is equipped with a Mirion Technologies RDS-32™ WR sensor with a range covering from µSv/h to Sv/h. Elios 3 is compatible with every RDS-32 so you can swap them as needed.
With a radiometric capability on-board, the Elios 3 RAD has also kept the impressive list of capabilities of the Elios 3:
Specific to the Elios 3 RAD, the drone offers indoor remote radiation detection and mapping to identify, locate, and monitor radiological dose fields and hot spots (while keeping operators out of harm’s way) anywhere inside a facility or asset, giving you a clear picture of radiological conditions and helping with your personnel dose exposure to plan interventions. The Elios 3 RAD offers a new way to gather more data from previously inaccessible areas all while improving safety:
|Elios 3 RAD specifications Because of the weight added to the aircraft by the payload (radiation sensor), the Elios 3’s specifications are altered as stated below when flown with the radiometric payload.
|Elios 3 is engineered to be easily serviceable.
|Fits in a < 400 mm sphere; 15.75 in
|4 fast reversing electric brushless motors
|Take-off weight (without dosimeter)
|< 1450 g; < 3,2 lbs. Includes battery, payload (not the dosimeter) & protection
|Flight control sensors
|IMU, magnetometer, barometer, 7 vision and distance sensors
|Auto-landing on signal lost, Forced-descent when battery critically low
|Splash and dust resistant
|LiPo 5S HV Smart Battery, 5200 mAh, 19V
|Carbon fibre composites, magnesium alloy, aeronautical grade aluminium, high-quality thermoplastics
|Protection cage materials
|Carbon fibre cage with soft coating, modular subcomponents for maintenance ease, thermoplastic elastomer suspensions, front opening dimensioned for easy battery access.
|Uniform all around the drone, up to 3 m/s on flat objects, up to 1.5 m/s on sharp objects
|Nominal to the Elios 3 RAD With radiometric sensor mounted
|Flight time (in ideal flight conditions, with a new battery)
|7min30s w/ Lidar 9min45s w/o Lidar
|Max operating temperature
|45 °C (113° F) w/ Lidar; 50 °C (122° F) w/o Lidar
|Max wind resistance
|4 m/s (13.1 ft/s) in assist mode; 6 m/s (19.7 ft/s) in sport mode
|2000 m (7,218 ft) w/ Lidar; 3000 m (9,843 ft) w/o Lidar
|Max 1 m/s for direct frontal contact on the sensor
|Limit to indoor use only in the US (when mounted on the drone, the radiation sensor blocks the GPS signal of the Remote ID module preventing outdoor flight in the USA)
|Radiation payload The complete specification of the RDS-32™ WR are available on Mirion’s website here. The sensor will yield an attenuated dose rate result when the heavy components of the drone such as the battery or main body are standing in the way between the detector and the radiation source
|Mirion RDS-32TM WR
|Energy-compensated GM tube and energy compensated Si diode
|IEC energy range
|55 keV GM tube / 65 keV, Si diode to 1.8 MeV
|High energy response to Cs-137
|4.4 MeV: GM tube 220%, Si diode 120% 6.7 MeV: GM tube 260%, Si diode 200%
|Dose rate measurement range
|0.05 µSv/h to 10 Sv/h
|IEC dose rate measurement range
|0.3 µSv/h to 10 Sv/h
|Dose rate linearity
|15% to +22% 0.3 µSv/h to 10 Sv/h
Any questions ? Interested in any other radiometric drone inspection ? Do not hesitate to contact us directly, we will help you find a fit-for-purpose, cost-efficient solution to your challenge.