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Helicopters seeking radioactive material to fly over IMS ahead of race day

The choppers are typically used as part of counterterrorism efforts and check for radioactive material.

INDIANAPOLIS — A low-flying chopper will soon be spotted over Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a federal security department measure to protect public health and safety throughout the Indianapolis 500 weekend. 

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration will conduct low-altitude helicopter flights over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway complex and nearby area between May 23-27 in preparation for the race.

The flight schedule is subject to change based on weather conditions, according to NNSA. 

NNSA’s Nuclear Emergency Support Team, or NEST, aircraft will measure expected background radiation as part of standard preparations to "protect public health and safety" on race day.

That means you could soon see twin-engine Bell 412 helicopters, equipped with radiation-sensing technology, flying low over the track.

The helicopter will reportedly fly in a grid pattern over the surveyed 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 about two hours to complete per area.

These surveys are a normal part of security and emergency preparedness activities, according to the department. 

NNSA said they are making the public aware of the upcoming flights so local residents who see the low-flying aircraft are not alarmed.

The helicopter is operated by NEST’s Aerial Measuring System, which is located at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

NEST is part of NNSA’s Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation


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