News & Politics

Freaked Out by the Low-Flying Helicopters Around DC? Don’t Worry!

That's just the federal government preparing for inauguration.

Photograph by Rob Brunner.

A low-flying helicopter seen over Chevy Chase DC Monday afternoon is apparently part of a Department of Energy program to measure radiation over Washington, DC, in advance of next year’s presidential inauguration. The National Nuclear Security Administration says in a press release that the flights “will measure naturally occurring background radiation as part of standard preparations to protect public health and safety on the day of the event.”

A helicopter has been spotted over Silver Spring as well.

While it might seem that the chances of a traditional presidential inauguration during a rampaging pandemic are vanishingly small, and while the US government deployed low-flying helicopters over DC this summer as a “show of force,” the Department of Energy says the flights, performed by a “twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter, which is equipped with sensitive, state-of-the-art passive radiation sensing technology” are “purely scientific in nature, and no surveillance or other form of monitoring will occur during these flights.” The NNSA also performed similar flights over Charlotte in advance of the RNC, which effectively took place in DC instead.

So just chill, okay?

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.