Drone defenses at airports require FAA approval

14 May 2019
Drone security is one of the most important security issues of 2019 and beyond but the FAA wants to control it. Source: Pixabay

As airports investigate drone deterrents to increase the safety of both planes and passengers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is telling airports that they need its approval to install drone defense measures.

The FAA said it understands the need for installing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) detection systems and plans to work with airports either considering the installation of such systems or with pre-installed systems. However, the FAA said that only federal agencies with authority should be able to install the drone countermeasure systems designed to detect or destroy suspicious drones.

The FAA would prohibit “the use of non-federal counter-UAV technologies at or around airports,” the agency said in a statement. The FAA wants to limit systems that might unexpectedly pose an aviation safety risk by interfering with aircraft navigation or air navigation services. The FAA will also not support any systems from non-federal departments.

Whether it is reckless behavior by commercial users of UAVs or possible criminals looking to test the limits as to what they can do with drones, drone incidents are increasing worldwide, causing airports to close down temporarily or halt flight activity altogether.

The most widely reported incident happened in late 2018 when a handful of drones grounded flights at Gatwick Airport in the U.K., impacting more than 110,000 passengers. In January of 2019, London’s Heathrow Airport closed and flights at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport were disrupted due to drone activity. Similarly, a Greenpeace drone dropped smoke bombs on a French nuclear power facility to expose a weak point in the facility.

Consequently, security against drones used for criminal activities is one of the biggest current trends in the aerospace and commercial drone markets. With consumer drone spending expected to total $5.1 billion this year, the problem is likely to increase, according to market research firm IDC. Industry spending on drones will be led by utilities, construction and discrete manufacturing with $1.4 billion, $1.05 billion and $913 million, respectively.

So far, the FAA has not given guidance as to which countermeasures can be used, but drone deterrence has become big business. Numerous companies are taking advantage of the emerging drone countermeasure market, bringing to market tactical guns that force drones down safely, RF sensors that track drone positions and even drones that purposely crash into other drones.

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