The FAA has been quite busy of late, what with all the issues regarding drone defence (or UAS in general) on its plate. Recently, they successfully tested NASA’s UTM system for air traffic management. Now, they’ve announced a research and development agreement with Gryphon Sensors, Liteye Systems, and Sensofusion, to deploy drone-sensor prototypes at select airports.
The FAA has assured the public that they would be working with other federal agencies (especially Homeland Security), to make sure that the sensor systems don’t interfere with normal aviation systems. This plan as a part of the FAA’s Pathfinders inatiative, designed to address three areas of national drone integration- “visual line-of-sight operations in urban areas, extended visual line-of-sight operations in rural areas [and] beyond visual line-of-sight in rural/isolated areas.”
Gryphon, Liteye, and Sensofusion are all enthused to be working on the project alongside the FAA. “Detecting these threats is challenging because most of them are very small, fly low to the ground and can be pre-programed to fly autonomously,” said Gryphon Sensors President Tony Albanese.
“As the legitimate use of unmanned vehicles becomes more prevalent in many industries, unfortunately this large number of aircraft also makes them readily available for illicit use,” Liteye Systems president Thomas Scott said.
Referring to the start of drone control systems with military operations back in 2013, Sensofusion CEO Tuomas Rasila added, “Fast forward to the present time, and AIRFENCE is now protecting various customer sites in Europe, including prisons, high profile government buildings, police, and military sites. Since the technology is software based, it improves with over-the-air updates, ensuring that we are always ahead of the commercial UAS market.”
Other companies that were approached for similar research include DHS and CACI International, whose prototype drone detection technologies may come in handy in the near future.
“The FAA supports DHS in an inter-agency effort to meet the threat of unauthorized UAS from a ‘whole of government’ perspective,” an FAA spokesperson stated, adding that the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, U.S. Secret Service and the FBI would also participate.
“Sometimes people fly drones in an unsafe manner,” said FAA senior drone integration adviser Marke Gibson. “Government and industry share responsibility for keeping the skies safe, and we’re pleased these three companies have taken on this important challenge.”