March 4, 2016

The FAA-led effort to develop and test a detection system that identifies unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operating on and near airports is a good first step, said Sarah Wolf, NBAA’s senior manager of security and facilitation.

As this technology matures, it will contribute to the safety of NBAA members that operate both manned and unmanned aircraft.

“Conscientious UAS operators, such as NBAA members that follow airspace rules and have a strong safety culture, are not the threat,” said Wolf. The substantial number of manned-aircraft pilots who continue to report UAS in the air around airports indicates that the FAA’s UAS outreach and education efforts have not yet reached all UAS operators.

The detection system being evaluated will build on the foundation of safety laid by the FAA’s education program by detecting “rogue drones” and their operators. The FAA is working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Directorate of Science and Technology, the University of Maryland and CACI International, which developed the proprietary SkyTracker system.

During the system’s initial test at New Jersey’s Atlantic City International Airport (ACY), SkyTracker successfully identified, detected and tracked 141 UAS operations over five days. The system scans a variety of UAS control frequencies, and it precisely located a variety of different unmanned aircraft, both airborne and on the ground, and their operators without interfering with airport operations.

Safely exploring the procedures for deploying the systems’ sensors and operating the detection system on and around airports was the effort’s primary goal. The DHS is taking a much more expansive view of the tests. The detection system would support its mission of keeping U.S. airspace safe from “bad actors” that would use UAS for malicious purposes.

The partners are now compiling the data from the January evaluation for the final report, which is due in August.

NBAA has long maintained that integration of UAS into the National Airspace System must be a thoughtful, deliberate process. That is, UAS should not share the same airspace with manned aircraft until they have equivalent certification and airworthiness standards as manned aircraft.

NBAA will continue to monitor the situation and report on any new developments, Wolf said.

Review NBAA’s UAS resources.