Federal Officials Get Specialized Drone Training in Idaho

This week, Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are conducting an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) training seminar for DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) aviation managers and aviation safety officers.

The seminar is being 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. In addition, he has consulted for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Nellis Air Force Base and submits and maintains federal Certificates of Authorization for INL, universities and consulting firms.

The hands-on training is taking place at INL’s Energy Systems Laboratory and on a 100-by-1,000-foot runway north of the Central Facilities Area at the DOE’s Idaho site.

The training is covering academic studies, as well as the safe and responsible operation of both small and large drones. The class comprises 42 aviation professionals from DOE/NNSA.

The 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 use of drone across the national laboratory complex. INL is looking to heighten awareness that anyone operating UAS on behalf of the DOE or NNSA is obligated to be properly trained and have an understanding of regulations.

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

INL, one of the DOE’s national laboratories, performs work in each of the DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. Day-to-day management and operation of the lab is the responsibility of the Battelle Energy Alliance.


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