Dimona Scientists Develop Micro-copter to Track Nuclear Activities

The new technology will allow scientists to measure both man-made and natural radiation, even in the most difficult terrains, without exposing them.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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A partial view of Israel's Dimona nuclear power plant in the southern Negev desert.
A partial view of Israel's Dimona nuclear power plant in the southern Negev desert.Credit: AFP
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Israel’s Negev Nuclear Research Center, in conjunction with the United States government, has developed a micro-copter capable of flying long distances and covertly gathering information on nuclear activities.

Developed as a means of measuring radiation, the new technology will allow scientists to measure both man-made and natural radiation, even in the most difficult terrains, without exposing them to radiation.

The creation and development of the palm-sized micro-copter was funded by the United States Department of Energy, the government bureau responsible for nuclear issues. It has six propellers and can fly up to 30 knots an hour for 20 minutes. Despite its small size, it can hold up to 300 grams of measuring gear per trip. It can also move around rough terrain without being detected.

The advantage of the system, according to the center, “is that it collects information from large, topographically challenging areas, and synchronizes that information with the copter’s GPS data within seconds.” That information, in turn, “can be used to detect anomalies on the ground and track radioactivity.”

“The technology allows scientists to distinguish between natural and man-made radiation. It also enables scientists to identify specific isotopes, both natural and man-made.

The device was tested in the Nevada desert in 2013. During the testing, it was compared with an American helicopter carrying radiation measuring equipment.

For now, the technology is intended for defensive purposes, like monitoring radioactivity, radioactive leaks and so on. However, it can also be used offensively, for tasks such as radioactivity tests of sites suspected of having nuclear energy.

The Negev Nuclear Research Center will continue developing new models of the device, which would allow for the collection of even more information.

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