Nuclear Security Helicopter Performs Radiation Survey Over University of Florida Reply

Noisy NNSA Helicopter Measures Radioactivity Over University of Florida, May 7-9, 2018

National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) claims they notify the public when these operations take place, however I can’t find the notice or the story published in local media.

The NNSA Helicopter can be seen and heard as far north as NW 16th Ave and US 441 near Gainesville High School.

One of NNSA’s prime missions is to maintain the nations Nuclear stockpile

PRESS RELEASE, WASHINGTON – (May 4, 2018):  The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) will conduct low-altitude helicopter flights over the University of Florida campus and Gainesville area between May 7 and 9.

The public may see a twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter, which is operated by the Remote Sensing Laboratory Aerial Measuring System from Joint Base Andrews and is equipped with radiation sensing technology.

The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over the area at 150 feet or higher above the ground surface at a speed of approximately 80 miles per hour. Flyovers will occur only during daylight hours.

The flyovers are part of a research project measuring baseline levels of radiation in the environment. NNSA routinely notifies the public of upcoming flights so that citizens who see the low-flying aircraft are not alarmed.


Requesting Agency For Gainesville/UF Not Identified:

Excerpt from 2013 NTI article

1/4/2013: NNSA Helicopter Now on Hunt for Radiation in Washington, D.C.

“The intent is to identify natural emitters of radiation that already exist locally in the event that authorities are forced to hunt for a nuclear weapon, radiological “dirty bomb,” or another radioactive source that is lost or stolen.”

“The project is being conducted at the request of local law enforcement, but the official did not know the specific agency.”

NNSA’s aerial radiation testing could provide a baseline for future DARPA developed monitoring equipment to be installed in fire rescue and emergency vehicles in Gainesville and Alachua Counties with a focus on safety to large football crowds at the “Swamp” in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.



 “DARPA’s SIGMA program—whose goal is to prevent attacks involving radiological “dirty bombs” and other nuclear threats—concluded its biggest and longest test deployment of vehicle-mounted radiation detectors in Washington, D.C., in February. For approximately seven months starting in July 2016, the fleet of D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services ambulances was outfitted with DARPA-developed nuclear and radiological detectors, providing the first city-scale, dynamic, real-time map of background radiation levels throughout the Capital as well as identifying any unusual spikes that could indicate a threat.

Because medical and fire emergencies occur in every corner of the District every day, emergency vehicles equipped with radiation detectors provide an excellent means of achieving a large-scale scan for radiological risks.” (more)

Jan 9, 2018: NNSA’s core missions include maintaining the nuclear stockpile, monitoring and promoting nonproliferation, powering the nuclear Navy, and responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies.

Failure of Timely Public Notice by NNSA, local government and media.

Only one local media outlet (CBS4-WGFL) reported the NNSA helicopter activity but the article was only published on the first day of operations therefor does not qualify as sufficient, advance “public notice”.

CBS4 uploaded the story to TWITTER but only after the helicopter was already buzzing Gainesville neighborhoods on May 7th.

The obscure CBS4 report that was belatedly published on the first day of the NNSA helicopter buzzing (5/7), fails to meet the standard of advance public notice. Mr. Farley demonstrates the point when he couldn’t find the CBS4 article until after the fact – on 5/10, the day after the chopper stopped buzzing houses. Thanks, anyway.

The equally obscure public notice posted at the NNSA website is unusually rushed given that it was released on May 3rd, only 4 days prior to what now appears to be an “emergency” radiation survey. Such short notice is consistent with actionable intelligence without the public’s “need to know”.

I’ve maintained a private pilot license since 1976 and can attest that even under the most liberal interpretation of FAA rules and waivers, a helicopter with a ground speed of 80 mph while skimming neighborhood roof-tops at less than 150 ft has no time to react to engine or abrupt mechanical failure. Period. With only one obscure article published by CBS4 the affected neighborhoods (and students) were essentially blind-sided with exposure to sudden catastrophy and disruptive noise. (ie: Pets, day sleepers, PTSD).

The NNSA helicopter was obviously operating under an FAA “waiver”.

FAA Rules: Title 14: Aeronautics and Space – PART 91—GENERAL OPERATING AND FLIGHT RULES Subpart B—Flight Rules

FAA Rules: §91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.

(b) “Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.”

(1) “A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; …”    Source:

Discussion from 2 years ago on same NNSA complaint: (Here)



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