If a nuclear device were to unexpectedly detonate anywhere on Earth, unmanned aircraft could be used to find out who made the weapon by rapidly collecting airborne radioactive particles for analysis. Relatively inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles could fly right down the throat of telltale radiation over a broad range of altitudes without exposing a human crew to hazards.
The Sandia National Laboratories-developed airborne particulate collection system recently demonstrated those kinds of capabilities. Dubbed “Harvester,” the system “tasted” the atmosphere with two particulate sampling pods. A third pod would provide directional guidance for a real event by following the trail of gamma radiation.