FAA small UAS registry

DIG IT AWARD FINALIST: Robotics, Automation and UAS

New drone registration system is flying high

Drones have captured public attention this year -- from unmanned aerial systems that drop deliveries for Amazon to small drones that endanger other aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration’s registration system, however, aims to ensure that small drones will be registered and trackable to head off potential mishaps and limit controversies.

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The FAA contracted with CSRA to develop and launch a cloud-based, platform-agnostic website to register and monitor drones that weigh 0.55 to 55 pounds. The agency and CSRA set an aggressive plan to develop and deploy the registration website within two months. “Our team had only six weeks to validate requirements,” said Peter O’Donoghue, CSRA’s vice president for solutions and alliances.

And then things got complicated. Midway through the process, the FAA’s small-UAS task force published recommendations that required significant changes in the scope and requirements of the website, O’Donoghue said.

“Our team in close collaboration with our customer accommodated these changes and still was able to meet our deployment date,” he added.

Constructing a custom site with software-as-a-service integration helped speed the plan along and will allow the architecture to better accommodate changes, such as third-party application programming interface integrations that merchants use to support drone registration.

Also, O’Donoghue said, the system was built with security in mind. “We used our agile and DevOps practices to integrate security scanning processes to quickly identify and remediate vulnerabilities,” he said. “We used cloud-native capabilities to rapidly establish account management capabilities, secure credit card processing capabilities, secure API management capabilities and protect the site against denial-of-service attacks.”

The system was designed to handle 200,000 concurrent users and 800,000 registrations an hour. Within two months of the site’s launch, more than 330,000 registrations had been processed, with an average time to register of less than three minutes.

About the Author

Karen Epper Hoffman is a freelance writer based in the Seattle area.

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