Area 6Secretive Area 6 used to test aerial radiation detection equipment

Published 8 March 2016

Top-secret Nevada site – even more secret than neighboring Area 51 — is used by Pentagon, DHS to test drones equipped with sensors to detect radioactive material which could be used in dirty bombs. The site, located in Yucca Flat, was once used for nuclear testing.

Map of active and inactive monitoring wells // Source:

Area 6, located in Nevada’s Yucca Flat, once served for underground nuclear testing. The Nevada National Security Site saw more than 1,000 nuclear tests between 1945 and 1992, and information from the U.S. Department of Energy shows that four tests and six detonations took place in Area 6.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that now, the airbase at the site, which has a 5,000-feet runway, is home to aircraft tests for federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and DHS.

National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) spokesman Darwin Morgan told the Review-Journal that the federal agencies use Area 6 to test drones equipped with sensors and away from the public eye — and to avoid being spied on in space. “We have controlled airspace and that gives them opportunities to test various types of platforms,” he said. 

“We do a wide variety of work for others — supporting people with sensor development activities. It evolved from the nuclear testing program. We had to have very good sensors to collect data in a split second before they were obliterated.”

The Nevada National Security Site, of which Area 6 is a part, is run by the NNSA field office in Nevada. The office works with other federal agencies to develop counterterrorism technologies. One task is developing technologies to detect radioactive materials, which terrorist could use in dirty bombs.

Tim Brown, an imagery analyst at defense information website, told the Review-Journal that based on the length of the runway, Aera 6 could be used to test drones such as Predator and Reaper drones. The area’s hangar could house 15 Reapers, he estimated.  

Records show that Area 6 was built in the 1950s for $9.6 million and the runway was added in 2005. The site also includes a large hangar and several smaller buildings.

The newspaper notes that the site is located a dozen miles south-west of the secretive Area 51, the existence of which was only acknowledged by the U.S. government in 2013.