The FAA will test drone detecting technologies in airports this year

It will evaluate at least 10 systems and test them across several airports in the US.

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Drone flying at the airport near an aircraft leading to a possible crash or accident. Illegal UAV flight inside the airport conceptual montage
Joel Papalini via Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will soon be evaluating several drone detecting systems for airports, the agency has announced. It will be testing at least 10 technologies and systems developed not just to detect unmanned aerial systems, but also to mitigate the potential safety risks they pose. The tests are part of the agency’s Airport Unmanned Aircraft Systems Detection and Mitigation Research Program and are expected to begin later this year.

The first tests will be conducted at FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center, which is right next to the Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey. After that, the agency expects to expand its tests to four additional airports in the US. It has yet to choose those airports, and it may also still be finalizing the list of technologies it’s testing: The FAA is asking interested companies working on drone detection systems to respond to its announcement within 45 days.

This upcoming round of tests is far from the first time the FAA is evaluating drone detection and mitigation systems for airports. The agency has been trialing them for years, even before the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 compelled the agency to ensure that drone detecting technologies do not interfere with safe airport operations.

Just a few days ago, the FAA, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission have also issued a joint advisory guidance document that aims to help private entities understand federal laws that apply to the use of drone detecting systems.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said in a statement back then:

“As the number of drones in our airspace continue to rise, it is unsurprising that the availability of counter-drone technologies has likewise increased. Because these technologies may be presented for sale without a full discussion of important legal requirements, this Advisory steps forward to provide an outline of the relevant legal landscape. By encouraging a common understanding of potentially applicable laws, the Advisory can help foster responsible industry growth and promote public safety.”

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