People in Chevy Chase and Silver Spring may have noticed noisy, low flying helicopters in the area on Monday. Those helicopters are from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and they are getting the area ready for the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.
According to a press release from the DOE, the National Nuclear Security Administration is conducting low-altitude helicopters over the Washington, D.C. area beginning Oct. 19 “to measure naturally occurring background radiation as part of standard preparations to protect public health and safety on the day of the event.”
A twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter equipped with state-of-the-art passive radiation sensing technology is flying in a grid pattern at around 150 feet above ground at a speed of about 80 miles per hour.
The flyovers will occur only in daylight and will hover around individual areas for two hours at a time.
According to the NNSA, the helicopters are not performing any surveillance and its activities are only scientific in nature. NNSA explained that these surveys are a normal part of security and emergency preparedness and are conducted to enable experts to respond to a radiological emergency.
Once the information is gathered, it is stored on computers and then used to produce maps of radiation exposure and contamination.
The NEST survey aircraft is an element of the Aerial Measuring System (AMS), based at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
The #NNSA Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) will conduct low-altitude #helicopter flights in and around #WashingtonDC starting Oct. 19 to measure naturally occurring background #radiation in preparation for the 2021 #InaugurationDay https://t.co/IT410C1gGt
— NNSA (@NNSANews) October 19, 2020
About That Helicopter – Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration edition https://t.co/xCFTRQ594K https://t.co/XacCCYXyI8
— PoPville (@PoPville) October 19, 2020