Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering Management


Department of Systems Engineering and Management

First Advisor

David R. Jacques, PhD


Nuclear and radiological terrorism is a persistent threat to United States national security. The research and development of new technological capabilities is vital to bolstering emergency response and prevention capabilities in support of national security initiatives. This research characterized the applicable trade-space for a system of unmanned vehicles deployed for search, detection, and identification of radiological source material. Exploration included the development of a CONOPS, a functional decomposition and physical allocation, design considerations, and an analysis of feasibility and utility. The concept system comprises of a ground control station, ground vehicle, hybrid-electric multirotor, and fixed-wing vehicle with an open architecture permitting the exchange of payload components. Payload options include a Geiger-Müller detector or scintillator for large area search and a scintillator or high purity germanium semiconductor for radioisotope identification. Endurance estimates revealed that a hybrid-electric multirotor is capable of carrying a 6.8-kilogram payload for 58 minutes. Similar estimates indicated that a battery-powered fixed-wing vehicle can provide a minimum of 41 minutes of endurance with a payload mass fraction of 15% (1.36-kilogram payload), whereas a gasoline-powered vehicle with the same payload mass fraction (1.95-kilogram payload) can operate for 12 hours. Electric multirotors are limited to a maximum endurance of 20 minutes, which is insufficient for radiological search missions. The system concept proves effective to the radiological search mission and can be expanded to other mission areas through its open architecture.

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