Savannah River National Laboratory’s Unmanned Aircraft System Team from left to right: Dave Premo, Tommy Sessions, Todd Coleman, Troy Lorier, Kirby Scott, Ben Robinson, Mark Spurlock, Jeff Steedley, Kyle Strom, Ron Bartholomew, and Dalton Hare.
Savannah River National Laboratory’s Unmanned Aircraft System Team from left to right: Dave Premo, Tommy Sessions, Todd Coleman, Troy Lorier, Kirby Scott, Ben Robinson, Mark Spurlock, Jeff Steedley, Kyle Strom, Ron Bartholomew, and Dalton Hare.

AIKEN, S.CSavannah River National Laboratory’s (SRNL) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) team has received the 2020 UAS Unit Award, a recognition for excellence given by the DOE’s Office of Aviation Management.

The award is based on criteria that include management, operations, maintenance, training, safety, and best practices. Nominations of UAS teams were reviewed and judged by a blue-ribbon panel, which included high-level military officers and aviation management professionals.

“The key to the success of this team was the hard work and partnership developed between the DOE and SRNL,” said Tony Polk, director of the DOE Savannah River Laboratory Office. “I look forward to seeing that partnership carried forward into future endeavors.”

SRNL’s UAS team comprises Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified pilots and visual observers. During the last fiscal year, SRNL logged more than 100 pilot hours and conducted missions that included infrastructure inspection, aerial photography and videography; emergency response exercise support; training and proficiency; research and development activities; and other U.S. government support.

“This was the first year that the DOE Office of Aviation Management included a UAS Unit Award in its annual DOE and Federal Safety Awards cycle. Being the recipient of the inaugural award truly validates all the planning and hard work by both the SRNL UAS Program and DOE oversight that goes into every UAS flight," DOE-SR Federal Aviation Manager Mark Spurlock said. "We look forward to continuing our focus on safety, professionalism, customer satisfaction, and broadening the UAS program’s mission scope in the next few years.” 

The UAS unit currently has 10 aircraft in its inventory and the team works closely with the DOE-Savannah River aviation manager and safety officer to plan and conduct on-site missions under an approved flight readiness review board.

Additionally, the SRNL UAS unit recently received approval to conduct unmanned aircraft flights beyond the direct sight of the pilot and visual observer. This was the first such approval granted by the FAA in its eastern sector for a non-public safety organization. That sector includes 17 states from Mississippi to Maine.