Unmanned aircraft training for DOE complex comes to Idaho

June 5, 2017


Sarah Neumann, 208-520-1651, sarah.neumann@inl.gov 
Nicole Stricker, 208-520-3230, nicole.stricker@inl.gov  

IDAHO FALLS — Idaho National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will conduct a three-day unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) training seminar for DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) aviation managers and aviation safety officers June 6-8 in Idaho Falls.

DOE’s Office of Aviation Management conducts training every year to support its specialized aviation missions. This year’s seminar comes in response to the growing utilization of UAS across the national laboratory complex, and to heighten awareness that anyone operating UAS on behalf of DOE or NNSA is obligated to be properly trained and have an understanding of civil standards and regulations.

In June 2015, the Department issued a memorandum stating that anytime a UAS was determined to be the right tool to accomplish a DOE governmental function, the Office of Aviation Management had to be engaged immediately. Aviation Management personnel were instructed to assist would-be UAS users in acquisition, registration, certification and management of their devices, and to offer training.

The seminar at INL will be taught by Matthew Balderree, the lab’s chief UAS pilot since 2014. An Air Force veteran, Balderree has piloted unmanned aircraft for petroleum companies, power utilities and agricultural clients. He has consulted for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Nellis Air Force Base, and submits and maintains FAA Certificates of Authorization (COAs) for INL, multiple universities and consulting firms.

Academic instruction will be at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies. The hands-on training will take place at INL’s Energy Systems Laboratory and on a 100-by-1,000-foot runway north of the Central Facilities Area at DOE’s Idaho Site.

The training will cover academic studies, hands-on operations of both small, lightweight and larger UAS craft. The training emphasis will be on safe operations and responsible deployment of UAS. The class is comprised of 42 aviation professionals from DOE/NNSA.

INL has been involved with UAS for many years, conducting such programs as the Rapid Airfield Damage Assessment System (RADAS) for the U.S. Air Force. DOE’s Idaho site has the second largest authorized flying area for UAS, and DOE considers INL a leading test site for unmanned aircraft.

Idaho National Laboratory is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

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