On May 7, 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a letter to U.S. airports telling airport operators not to install drone countermeasures without approval from the FAA.
The FAA warned that non-federal counter-UAS technologies, “could pose an aviation safety risk by interfering with aircraft navigation and air navigation services.”
The FAA reiterated that they share in the safety concerns that drones pose to airport safety and security. The federal agency reassures airports that they will continue “to work closely with airport operators who are considering installing UAS detection systems or have already installed such systems on or near their airports.”
The latest FAA statement to airports also provides other important attachments such as:
- Previous letter sent to U.S. Airports on UAS countermeasures (dated July 19, 2018 )
- Frequently Asked Questions and Answers concerning UAS Detection Systems (dated May 7, 2019)
- Unmanned Aircraft System Detection - Technical Considerations (dated May 2019)
The FAA also states they plan to release more information as they refine their “processes and procedures for safe UAS detection system use and coordinated operational response at or around airports.”
Increased concerns about drones near airports
Since the December 2018 drone incident at Gatwick, that shut down Gatwick for nearly three days, concerns about drones interfering with airports and airplane safety have increased. Gatwick isn’t the first incident but it demonstrated how vulnerable airports are to drone risks.
There have been several well-documented drone incidents that have taken place around the world:
- Dubai International Airport (DXB): Drone shuts down Dubai airport for 115 minutes. (October 2016)
- Gatwick Airport (LGW): Drone suspends flights for 14 minutes(July 2, 2017), drone puts 130 passengers at risk when it flew over wing of plane approaching airport (July 9, 2017)
- Ben Gurion Airport (TLV): Flights suspended for 10 minutes due to drones entering airport airspace (January 2018)
- McCarran International Airport (LAS): Drone flew over a passenger jet (February 2018)
- Auckland Airport (AKL): Auckland Airport halts all flights for 30 minutes after a drone sighting (March 2018)
- Gatwick Airport (LGW): Gatwick shut down for over 33 hours due to drones. The airport canceled around 1,000 flights and affecting at least 110,000 passengers. (December 19 - 21, 2019)
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR): Airport issues ground stop at the airport due to reports of drones (January 2019)
- Dubai International Airport (DBX): Airport grounds all outbound flights for over 30 minutes due to drone sighting. (February 2019)
- Gatwick Airport (LGW): Flights diverted after drone sighting near Gatwick Airport. (April 2019)
Countries are experiencing an increasing number of drone sightings. In January 2019, Airports in New Zealand reported up to two sightings near airports each week. The incidents prompted Auckland Airport to test out drone detection technology, the airport reported successful drone countermeasure trials.
As UAS continue to put airport and passenger safety at risk, airports are looking for help to address drone issues. Last week, the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International and Airports Council International-North America launched the Blue Ribbon Task Force to address drone at airports.