EPA’s Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology (ASPECT)

Based near Dallas, Texas, and able to deploy within one hour of notification, ASPECT is the nation’s only airborne real-time chemical and radiological detection, infrared and photographic imagery platform. ASPECT is available to assist local, national, and international agencies supporting hazardous substance response, radiological incidents, and situational awareness in the US. ASPECT is available 24/7/365 and can be collecting data at any site in the continental US within nine hours.


ASPECT consists of a suite of sensors and software mounted in a twin-engine aircraft. This suite can generate data in a variety of formats to produce scientifically valid products within five minutes of data collection. Primary sensors and features include:

  • Infrared Line Scanner
  • High Speed Infrared Spectrometer
  • Gamma-Ray Spectrometers
  • He3 Neutron Detector
  • Digital Aerial Cameras
  • Satellite Communication System
  • Data Delivery Using Google Earth, ESRI and other formats

To request ASPECT assistance, please call:

  • EPA’s Emergency Operations Center at 202-564-3850; or
  • the National Call Center at 800-424-8802.

ASPECT (Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology) Brochure (PDF) (2 pp, 5.6M)

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ASPECT Flight Schedule (subject to change)

Ongoing: Comprehensive Atmospheric Monitoring Program

The comprehensive atmospheric monitoring program is a joint monitoring program between the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and ASPECT. The purpose of the program is to develop and demonstrate how infrared remote sensing techniques can be used to conduct atmospheric carbon dioxide monitoring. The program will also estimate possible carbon dioxide sources from city sized areas.

April 2014: Boston Marathon Pre-Deployment (Tentative)

ASPECT has been requested to support EPA’s Region 1 activities associated with the 2014 Boston Marathon. The aircraft will pre-deploy to Boston, MA, and remain ready in the event of an emergency during the Boston Marathon.  In addition to the pre-deployment, a chemical and radiological background and aerial imagery survey is scheduled over the City of Boston while the asset is in the region.

The aircraft will be located just outside the Boston area on hot standby if an emergency requires its services on Monday April 21, 2014. The city survey will occur on Thursday April 17, 2014. An Open House will occur at Hanscom Field (Jet Aviation, 380 Hanscom Dr, Bedford MA 01730) to showcase EPA’s airborne assets and capabilities on Friday April 18, 2014, from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm for all local, state, and federal emergency response personnel in the area.

Late Spring 2014: Grand Canyon Radiological Survey 

This survey will be conducted per a request from the National Park Service to investigate possible uranium mine drainage into the Grand Canyon. The Park Service is interested in addressing any potential impacts to the public and environment from these discharges. The project will consist of using a subset of ASPECT equipment that will be installed and flown on a Park Service helicopter.

July 2014: Live Agent Field Exercise with National Guard’s 64th Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Civil Support Team (CST)

This field exercise is planned to take place in the Santa Fe area of New Mexico the week of July 14, 2014. The ASPECT Team will generate and disperse a chemical plume to simulate a chemical attack or fire, fly the target area and disseminate the data collected to the local decision makers. The locals will then send the 64th WMD CST to confirm the plume. They will also use the data to more accurately generate plume models.

The locals will be placing live radiological and nuclear sources, identify the approximate location, and request ASPECT to fly the area to identify and map the sources. In turn, the 64th WMD CST will use the ASPECT data to send in ground troops to confirm and secure the sources. This exercise will enhance the response capabilities of the EPA and WMD-CSTs, test communication and data transfer options.

Summer 2014: Radiological Background Survey of the National Capitol Region (D.C., VA, MD)

ASPECT is scheduled to fly the second part of a multi-state/county survey of the greater Washington D.C. region. The Federal Bureau of Investigations Washington Field Office requested ASPECT to conduct a holistic chemical and a radiological background assessment of the D.C. area. Data from this survey will provide emergency response managers with a set of baseline data as related to atmospheric chemicals and the radiological background present in the D.C. area. The chemical portion of the survey was completed in January and the radiological portion is scheduled for the fall.

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Past Flights

  • Winter 2014: Tournament of Roses Parade, Rose Bowl, and BCS National Championship Game
  • Winter 2013: 2013 Inauguration Pre-Deployment
  • Winter 2013: 2013 Chemical Background Survey of the National Capitol Region (DC, VA, MD)
  • Winter 2013: 2013 NFL Super Bowl
  • Spring 2013: Radiological and Infrared Survey of Westlake Landfill and Coldwater Creek
  • Spring 2013: West Fertilizer Explosion, West, TX
  • Summer 2013: 2013 Boy Scout of America Jamboree
  • Summer 2013: 64th Civil Support Team Regional CBRN Full Scale Field Exercise

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Aerial Survey Results Frequent Questions

Aerial Radiation Survey: Information to accompany Midnite Mine survey report (PDF) (3 pp, 247K)

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ASPECT in the Media

EPA plane detects radiation at West Lake landfill, will release findings Exit

ASPECT was recently featured in Geospatial Today Exit and the Washington Times Exit.

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