One of the 20 aircraft in the Savannah River National Laboratory Unmanned Aircraft System fleet.
One of the 20 aircraft in the Savannah River National Laboratory Unmanned Aircraft System fleet.

AIKEN, S.C. – A team that operates camera-mounted drones at the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) has been recognized with the 2021 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Unit Award by DOE’s Office of Aviation Management.

This is the second consecutive year that the SRNL team has won the award, which is based on criteria including management, operations, maintenance, training, safety, and best practices. Nominations of UAS teams were reviewed and judged by an external, independent panel consisting of subject-matter experts from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Defense and civil aviation.

“The SRNL UAS Team continues to exceed expectations,” SRNL Associate Lab Director for Global Security Tammy Taylor said. “In the coming year we intend to further grow and develop the UAS program, our relationships and collaborative missions.”

Among the uses of the camera-mounted drones is to ensure the structural integrity of protective covers over EM’s remediated waste sites at the Savannah River Site.

The team consists of a program manager, operations manager, aviation safety officer, six FAA-certified pilots and remote pilot. Another individual serves as ground-control support and as a visual observer. The SRNL UAS Program has 20 UAS aircraft in its fleet and the team works closely with the DOE-Savannah River Site aviation manager and safety officer to plan and conduct onsite missions under an approved flight readiness review board.

In 2021, SRNL logged over 100 flight hours and more than 350 flights. Missions included exercises with the U.S. Marines and Air Force, infrastructure inspections, aerial photography and videography, emergency response exercise support, training and currency, research and development activities, and other U.S. government support.