Testing a Light-weight Compact Gamma Ray Detector for Measuring Snow Water Equivalent

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Eyal Saiet II, Daniel John Solie and Matthew Sturm, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, United States
The use of gamma ray to measure snow water equivalent (SWE) trace back to the 1970s during the Soviet Union hydrology program. Over the years research has shown that gamma detectors could be used to monitor SWE, and their use significantly expanded. In the 1980s several airborne campaigns were launched in North America to measure SWR; these gamma flights are still in use today. However, these airborne flights require a twin-engine aircraft and a detector with a computer that weighs 250 kg, which is unsuitable for use with unmanned airborne systems (UAS), our primary interest. Here we describe results of tests of a compact gamma detector weighing 2 kg. The envisioned deployment of this detector is on a small quad-copter UAS that can hover low over remote clearings in the boreal forest of interior Alaska. Such a technique may allow SWE estimates in places that otherwise would be difficult to measure. We tested the detector over snow and water bodies and found for SWE between 0 and 50 cm a sensitivity of ± 2 cm SWE, which is sufficient to resolve any significant snowfall in the region. In this presentation we will discuss our preliminary results and our future strategy for deploying the sensor on a UAS.