Drone detection system exposes pilots flying dangerously close to airports

Drone detection system exposes pilots flying dangerously close to airports
The FAA is working on technology to detect drones flying in sensitive airspace
The FAA is working on technology to detect drones flying in sensitive airspace
View 1 Image
The FAA is working on technology to detect drones flying in sensitive airspace
The FAA is working on technology to detect drones flying in sensitive airspace

As hobby drones have wildly increased in popularity, so too has the need to keep pilots accountable. Following the launch of a mandatory drone registry last year, the US government is now exploring new technologies to detect drones flying too close to airports. Early testing has been labelled a success, and holds the promise of not just sniffing out rogue drones but the irresponsible people behind the joysticks as well.

While it continues to work on new laws to safely integrate drones into national airspace, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ramped up its public awareness campaigns. This has included educational materials offered at the point of sale, digital campaigns and a smartphone app. Now it is enlisting new technologies to further mitigate the risk to public safety.

The number of instances of drones flying dangerously close to airliners has risen sharply over the last year, with the FAA saying it receives over 100 reports of such events each month. The new initiative, which was announced in October, sees the agency partner with private company CACI in an effort to avoid potential catastrophic collisions with manned aircraft.

CACI's drone-detecting tech counts on radio frequency sensors placed strategically around an airport. These sensors detect the same frequencies used by drones, triangulates the signals and then zeroes in on the location of not just the vehicle, but the pilot too. The system was tested out for the first time at Atlantic City International Airport last month, where 141 operations were carried out over five days.

"The results of testing under our PathFinder agreement with the FAA at Atlantic City International Airport demonstrate that CACI's proprietary system – SkyTracker – performed as designed," says CACI Chief Operating Officer John Mengucci. "SkyTracker successfully identified, detected, and tracked UAS in flight, and precisely located drone ground operators – all without interfering with airport ground operations."

We have seen a number of inventive approaches to tackling rogue drone flights in recent months, ranging from drone-catching nets to radio beams and firmware updates from manufacturers that block flights in sensitive airspace. The FAA and CACI will continue testing their detection technology over the coming months and will deliver a final report by August 2016.

Source: FAA

Mel Tisdale
Such is the state of development of control electronics (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc.) and GPS jammers available on EBay, the system so described will not thwart a determined terrorist. For that task I can only think of directed EMPs fired from 'gunnery batteries' linked to specialist radar installations. Even then, the danger from friendly fire is enormous.
This is a curiously ambiguous description of the technology. I understand that most radio control hobby aircraft use 2.4 GHz radios. That's the same frequency of many household wireless devices, routers included. A router isn't going to be moving around the sky, but neither is the pilot of a remotely operated aircraft.
Does this device locate aircraft or pilots? Transmitter location or receiver location?
If it locates the transmitter (pilot) it doesn't necessarily mean that pilot is flying an aircraft.
I'm within the restricted range of an airport and it would be amusing to turn my radio on but do nothing. No flight, no foul.
And just how much is this "very easy to by-pass" system at every airport going to cost the American tax payers?
Gaëtan Mahon
I think it's pretty obvious for any sane person not to fly near an Airport ( at least not plain sight ) so the person you're most likely looking for did it with ill intent including some preparation and judging my limited experience with programmable Flight Controllers one easily upload a preprogrammed Mission Path to the UAV that has it roam the Airport and while the Drone does it's thing for the next 10-20min you vanish from the area ass soon as you've given full control to the Flight Controller.
How do they plan to identify an operator which was last "seen" 20min before the event even happened? And like usual the Article keeps narrowing down on Multicopters ( DJI Inspire 1 picture ) with a somewhat limited operation time and distance but what about a Wing Glider? You could launch these hidden from within a forest 50km+ away while still being in control until the last moment it hit's something.
Doing something against a possible threat is admirable but they may want to focus on more realistic plans like just safely downing an approaching UAV.
Just use a military grade Laser mounted on top of the Tower and burn an incoming UAV out of the sky - If someone comes complaining you'll have all the evidence that whatever you just shot down was within the prohibited Area.
Befor everyone blathers on about near misses with planes, it might be a good idea to actually look at the fact that the FAA has called any and all incidents weather verified or not as drone near misses. They are calling it a drone mis even if the pilots say it was not a drone Read this report than ask why the FAA is so worried https://www.modelaircraft.org/gov/docs/AMAAnalysis-Closer-Look-at-FAA-Drone-Data_091415.pdf