Residents of the Washington area may soon see a low-flying helicopter from the U.S. Department of Energy over areas around the nation’s capital in preparation for the Presidential Inauguration in January 2021.
The helicopters are from the Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) which is part of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA.) The twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter is equipped with sensitive, state of the art passive radiation sensing technology that will be used to measure naturally occurring background radiation.
The NEST helicopter will fly in a grid pattern about 150 feet or higher at speeds of about 80 mph. The flyovers, which will take about two hours to complete per area, will only occur during daylight hours.
“The aircraft measurements will be purely scientific in nature and no surveillance or other form of monitoring will occur during these flights,” officials said.
Officials with NNSA said they are announcing the upcoming flights so the sight of low-flying helicopters flying over the nation’s capital will not alarm the public. The surveys are a “normal part of security and emergency preparedness activities,” the officials said.