FAA Working To Intercept Drones That Fly Into Restricted Airspace


FAA Working To Intercept Drones That Fly Into Restricted Airspace

The Fed­er­al Avi­ation Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FAA) has teamed up with military contractor CACI International to develop and test new technology to track and discourage commercial and personal drone operators from flying into restricted and sensitive airspace such as airports.

FAA deputy administrator Michael Whitaker says it is imperative something is done to control drone flights near airports to prevent "a po­ten­tially cata­stroph­ic col­li­sion between a drone and an air­liner".

He says the FAA is concerned about the the increasing number of drone sightings by com­mer­cial pi­lots. He says his agency receives about 100 re­ports a month of drone sight­ings near air­planes and air­ports.

Aviation experts say the CACI partnership with the FAA is the latest in a series of attempts to keep drones from ac­cess­ing re­stric­ted air­space. Some Congressmen are pushing the FAA to to cre­ate man­dat­ory geofences that would pre­vent drones from be­ing flown where they shouldn’t.

Sen. Chuck Schu­mer will be introducing legislation to set up vir­tu­al fences around sens­it­ive areas where drones would be kept them from en­ter­ing the "fenced-off" areas by built in software. The experts say although it’s a step in the right direction, Schu­mer’s plan is not fool­proof. The geofen­cing soft­ware in drones can be easily disabled and modified by a savvy user.

The technology being tested in the CACI/FAA partnership goes further than geofen­cing.

CACI's president of U.S. Operations says the tech­no­logy can “pass­ively de­tect, identi­fy, and track UAS or aer­i­al drones and their ground-based op­er­at­ors."

Whitaker says the technology will be able to loc­at­e op­er­at­ors who are fly­ing drones.

Ac­cord­ing to Congressman Peter De­Fazio, the tech­no­logy has "been used in mil­it­ary ap­plic­a­tions. As they ex­plained it to me, they can pin­point the op­er­at­or — that’s good. They can do nu­mer­ous things: They can force the drone to land, they can force it to go back to the op­er­at­or, or, in the case of hos­tiles, they de­liv­er something to the op­er­at­or."

“You wouldn’t want to ne­ces­sar­ily dis­able them and have them drop out of the sky, but they can also dir­ect them to an­oth­er place, and if we had des­ig­nated safe sites around air­ports or crit­ic­al air­space and we used this tech­no­logy, we could dir­ect the drones there and say, ‘Oh, come get your drone, we’ll be wait­ing,’” says DeFazio.

The FAA has already put a less in­trus­ive strategy into place - an edu­ca­tion cam­paign called “Know Be­fore You Fly” and “No-Drone Zones", aimed at hob­by­ists and com­mer­cial drone op­er­at­ors.

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