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SEATTLE-- A specially outfitted aircraft will be buzzing the skies over Western Washington through the end of the month.

Monday night, the crew of a high tech Department of Energy chopper prepared the helicopter at Boeing Field for upcoming flights.

The State Department of Health is mapping background radiation in the region, in order to create a baseline to compare levels in the event of a nuclear accident, or terrorist incident.

In order to get accurate readings the chopper must fly low.

How low is low? The Space Needle is 605 feet tall. The helicopter will be just 300 feet above the ground -- half the Needle's height -- and moving at 70 miles per hour.

The study is being paid for with money from the Department of Homeland Security.

The flights will cover parts of King and Pierce County including Seattle, Bellevue, and Tacoma, and run through July 28.

The Department of Health says it expects to find some radiation, from natural sources, medical facilities, even construction sites using radioactive equipment to take measurements. If there are any surprises, the agency says it will alert the public and work to resolve the issue.

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