MARS on the move
PNNL is adapting the Multi-Sensor Airborne Radiation System (MARS) for first-time deployment on a helicopter in late 2012. Researchers have been developing and testing the system to support nonproliferation objectives of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration. The technology advances the state of the art in radiological detection at standoff distances. Using high-purity germanium crystals inside a vacuum cryostat, MARS detects and identifies radiological isotopes, with great precision, from a distance of tens of meters. MARS sends its detection data to a computer in real time, where operators quickly can see what substance is being detected and how radioactive it is. Knowing that, experts can tell what kind of nuclear material is in the vicinity, where it's coming from, and how dangerous it is. MARS was demonstrated successfully last year on a truck that traveled from Richland, Washington to Charleston, South Carolina, and then on two boats. The helicopter deployment will be a first for a system with this level of precision. See KNDU TV story.