The National Nuclear Security Administration is deploying systems that will counter drones at four sites thatÂ house special nuclear materials, including the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.
Deployed by the Office of Defense Nuclear Security, the systems are designed to mitigate any malicious aerial intruders at NNSA sites. They will have the capability to detect, identify, track, and intercept unsanctioned and suspicious drones, the NNSA said Monday.
One system has already been deployed atÂ Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
â€œWe needed a system to counter threats ranging from on-site disruption by protestors to intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance of NNSA sites, plants, and labs,â€ said Lewis Monroe III, director of security operations and programmatic planning.
The NNSA said theÂ increasing prevalence of unmanned aircraft systems, often referred to as drones, pose a potential threat to national security sites across the country.
“More and more often, itâ€™s not a bird or a plane, but unmanned aircraft systems seen flying overhead in our nationâ€™s airspace,” the NNSA said.
NNSA worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to designate a no-drone zone at Los Alamos National Laboratory. That’s the legally recognized area where unauthorized activities by unmanned aircraft systems are prohibited.Â NNSAâ€™s other Category 1 nuclear facilities have also received no-drone zone designations from the FAA.
Safeguards and security professionals at Los Alamos completed operational testing of the system there using authorities granted by the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the NNSA said. It is the first of the four deployments at Category 1 sites that house strategic special nuclear material. Additional programs will be launched next year at three other NNSA sites: the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas; the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and the Nevada National Security Site near Las Vegas, Nevada.
The platform to counter unmanned aircraft was selected from systems and components that were tested and evaluated by NNSAâ€™s Center for Security Technology, Analysis, Response and Testing. Sandia National Laboratories conducted the initial testing and evaluation of a number of platforms at the Nevada National Security Site, and the lab provided leaders with data and analysis to choose the proper platform as a solution for all four NNSA Category 1 nuclear facilities, officials said.
Oak Ridge Today reported in December 2017 that the FAA had restricted drone flights over Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and five other federal sites.Â It was the first time the FAA has placed specific airspace restrictions for drones over U.S. Department of Energy sites. (Y-12 is an NNSA site, and ORNL is a DOE Office of Science site. The NNSA is the part of DOE that maintains the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile and provides fuel for naval nuclear reactors, among other activities.) The airspace restrictions reported last year were to take effect last December 29.
More information will be added as itÂ becomes available.
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