Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), aka drones, that enter the protected airspace around airports can pose serious threats to safety. The FAA is finally and belatedly coordinating with government and industry partners to evaluate technologies that can be used safely to detect drones near airports. (FAA Belatedly Issues Rules for Some Drones and FAA Finally Announces Registration Rules for Drones – UAVs and Ineffective FAA Sits By as Drones Take Over U.S. Airspace)
This week, the FAA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are conducting drone-detection research near Denver International Airport. This work is part of the FAA’s Pathfinder Program* for UAS Detection at Airports and Critical Infrastructure.
The State of Nevada and State of North Dakota UAS Test Sites conducted flight operations for the Denver evaluations. Industry partners involved in the Denver flights included CACI International, Liteye Systems and Sensofusion.
The FAA plans to capture the data and findings from the evaluations and draft recommendations for standards. These standards will guide the selection of drone-detection systems for airports nationwide.
The work in Denver is one of six technical evaluations finally scheduled over an 18-month period. Other evaluation sites include Atlantic City International Airport, JFK International Airport, Eglin Air Force Base, Helsinki Airport, and Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport.
In addition to DHS, the FAA’s federal research partners include the Department of Defense, FBI, Federal Communications Commission, Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, NASA, Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons, US Secret Service and US Capitol Police. It’s unknown how many of these agencies Donald Trump wants to disband.
The House Report accompanying the Fiscal Year 2016 federal appropriations law and the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 both directed the FAA to continue research into detecting unmanned aircraft in airport environments. Yes, the FAA had to be told to do its job.
* The FAA’s Focus Area Pathfinder initiative involves three industry partners who are exploring incremental expansion of UAS operations in the NAS.
The three focus areas are:
- Visual line-of-sight operations over people
CNN explores how UAS might be safely used for news gathering in populated areas
- Extended visual line-of-sight operations in rural areas
PrecisionHawk will explore how UAS flights outside the pilot’s direct vision might allow greater UAS use for crop monitoring in precision agriculture operations.
- Beyond visual line-of-sight operations in rural/isolated areas
BNSF Railway will explore command-and-control challenges of using UAS to inspect rail system infrastructure.