from baltimore.cbslocal.com: Homeland Security officials will conduct tests this week that could save lives and they’ll be done from a helicopter flying extremely low over the city. Officials will test for radiation so they can respond more quickly in case of a nuclear or dirty bomb attack... Eyes to the sky will notice an unusual sight over Baltimore: a massive helicopter flying low overhead. The chopper – a tool from the National Nuclear Security Administration – has sensors that test for naturally occurring radiation.
“If sometime in the future you have a reason to be looking for something radiological, it’s very necessary to have the original background,” said Joseph Krol, National Nuclear Security Administration. The chopper will take readings from the air to measure radiation levels on the ground. So if there’s ever a dirty bomb threat in Baltimore, Homeland Security will be able to take to the sky and pinpoint exact communities where radiation levels are abnormal. Then officials on foot may be able to find the bomb more quickly. Similar testing has already been done in Washington, D.C. and on the West Coast with that helicopter flying as low as 150 feet from the ground.
“That is low. That’s like 10 stories on a normal building so that’s not very high at all,” said Captain Jeff Long. Long says the helicopter is much larger and louder than Sky Eye Chopper 13 but the ability to scan the city so quickly in an emergency is vital. “There’s no faster way to do it. If you’re flying over the city and you don’t have to stop for traffic, you’ve got a clear shot,” Long said. A clear shot could protect lives in a terror attack. The tests will take place Wednesday and Thursday. The helicopter will fly over the city periodically for the next few years to continue testing.