AMS Helicopter over Las Vegas
DOE/NNSA Bell 412 helicopter flying over Las Vegas strip.

Residents may see low-altitude helicopter flying over city

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) will conduct low-altitude helicopter flights over the Las Vegas Strip and its surrounding areas Dec. 29 and 31 to measure naturally occurring background radiation ahead of New Year’s Eve.

NNSA’s Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) aircraft conduct these flights as part of standard preparations to protect public health and safety. These flights are regularly conducted prior to major public events, including presidential inaugurations and Super Bowls.

Local residents may see a twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter, which is equipped with sensitive, state-of-the-art passive radiation sensing technology. The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over the areas at 150 feet (or higher) above the ground at a speed of approximately 80 mph. Flyovers will occur only during daylight hours and are estimated to take approximately two hours to complete per area. The aircraft measurements will be purely scientific in nature, and no surveillance or other form of monitoring will occur during these flights.

The aerial surveys are a normal part of security and emergency preparedness activities. By calculating the “normal” amount of radiation occurring in an area, the NEST team is able to quickly recognize unusual levels before, during, or after an event. DOE/NNSA is making the public aware of the upcoming flights so citizens who see the low-flying aircraft are not alarmed.

The NEST survey vehicle, based at Nellis Air Force Base, is operated by personnel from the Nevada National Security Site’s Remote Sensing Laboratory.

For more information and video footage of the NNSA Aerial Measuring System, see https://www.energy.gov/nnsa/aerial-measuring-system-ams.

NEST is part of NNSA’s Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation Program and is an element of the Nation’s nuclear or radiological emergency response capability.