FAA tests drone detection system

FAA tests drone detection system

As the Federal Aviation Administration crafts regulatory steps toward integrating unmanned aerial vehicles into the national airspace, the agency is also taking tactical action to detect rogue drones.

Working with the Department of Homeland Security and the University of Maryland, the FAA tested CACI International’s drone detection prototype in late January and early February. The FAA maintains that the partnership will foster safe procedures and process for deploying and operating detection technologies around airports. 

CACI’s proof-of-concept solution, called SkyTracker, uses strategically located radio frequency sensors to detect common UAS frequencies and triangulate the location of both the device and the operator. CACI describes its detection solution as “nonintrusive,” creating a passive electronic perimeter superior to geofencing.   

Tested in 141 operations over five days at the Atlantic City, N.J., airport, “SkyTracker successfully identified, detected and tracked UAS in flight and precisely located drone ground operators -- all without interfering with airport ground operations,” said John Mengucci, CACI’s chief operating officer and president of U.S. Operations.

While the FAA’s efforts focus on targeted solutions around airports, NASA has been working with industry partners to devise a UAS traffic monitoring system that will track drones in flight across the country.  The goal is to eliminate the close calls involving UASs and commercial airplanes that are growing every more frequent as the number of privately owned drones continues to multiply. 

“The explosive growth of the unmanned aircraft industry makes evaluating detection technologies an urgent priority,” said Marke Gibson, FAA senior advisor on UAS integration. “This research is totally aimed at keeping our skies safe, which is our No. 1 mission.”

Other commercial drone detection solutions use acoustic signatures, radar or imaging technologies to detect unauthorized aerial devices.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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