Energy Department to send helicopters in Washington to scan for radiation spikes until inauguration day
11/06/2020 // Arsenio Toledo // Views

The Department of Energy (DOE) has begun chartering low-flying helicopters to hover across parts of Washington to map out the radiation levels across the capital. Starting Oct. 26, the DOE will commission a twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter that is equipped with “sensitive, state of the art passive radiation-sensing technology” to measure the levels of “naturally-occurring background radiation” in the area to check for any unnatural spikes that may point to an illegal nuclear or otherwise radioactive weapon.

Officials have stated that the helicopter will conduct measures that are “purely scientific in nature” and will not conduct any surveillance or monitoring during the flights. They further stated that the survey of radiation levels is a standard part of one of the country’s “security and emergency preparedness activities.”

The helicopter is being commissioned from the Nuclear Emergency Support Team, a part of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Officials have stated that the procedures are purely scientific and that this is done as part of the NNSA’s Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation Program, which works to prevent and lower the risk of a terrorist or any other hostile force from unleashing a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon or any other kind of radiological device, such as a dirty bomb. If there are any stolen, misplaced or improvised radioactive or nuclear weapons in Washington, D.C., the helicopters should be able to find them.

The helicopter flights will be conducted almost every day until Jan. 20, 2021, to prepare for inauguration day. Local media outlets report that the Bell 412 helicopter may fly as low as 150 feet from the ground at approximately 80 miles per hour.


Official statements from the NNSA say that upcoming flights will be announced well before they take off to make sure the residents of the nation’s capital aren’t alarmed by the sudden appearance of a low-flying helicopter. They will only occur during the day, and each survey flight is expected to take around two hours to complete.


Low-flying helicopter flights have been occurring in the capital for several months

Reports of low-flying helicopters hovering over parts of Washington, D.C. first started appearing in early June, right around when the engineered rioting first emerged in Minneapolis and in the nation’s capital.

Some of these flights were also reportedly from DOE Bell 412 helicopters bearing similar specialized equipment for measuring radiation levels in the city.

An analysis by The War Zone, the helicopter that flew around the capital in early June had a civil registration number of N411DE. This marked it as one of two helicopters that are part of the NNSA’s Aerial Measuring System (AMS) program, which

The primary job of the AMS planes and helicopters is to figure out the spread and severity of radioactive activity in a certain area. There has never been such an incident in Washington, D.C., but the NNSA has been known to send out AMS helicopters to conduct mapping surveys ahead of large public events, including presidential inaugurations. (Related: VIDEO: Washington, D.C. Black Lives Matter speaker wants to “put police in the f****** grave,” “burn the White House down.”)

The NNSA may even commission several flights after the presidential inauguration in order to monitor for any “concerning changes.” Jay Tilden, the NNSA’s Associate Administrator for the Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation Program, said:

“We deploy the helicopter right as a security bubble is being established around a major public event. Oftentimes, in a city, you’ll find a hospital or a cancer treatment center, and so that will pop up depending on the location of the source and what it’s in [and] that will show [in the mapped data] and it will allow then the local and/or federal officials to determine that it, in fact, should be there.”

While the NNSA has put out multiple statements saying that the radiation-sniffing helicopter is only being deployed to provide security data for the presidential inauguration, it remains to be seen if the regular radiation screenings will be beneficial for large-scale events that will occur this year, such as the presidential election on Nov. 3.

Learn more about how the United States government is preparing for the possibility of terrorism incidents by reading the latest articles at

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