The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and CACI International Inc. have entered into a Pathfinder agreement to evaluate technology that can help detect drones in the vicinity of airports.
FAA Deputy Administrator Mike Whitaker testified on Wednesday before the House Aviation Subcommittee, saying that flying an unmanned aircraft near a busy airfield poses an unacceptable safety hazard.
During the hearing titled, “Ensuring Aviation Safety in the Era of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS),” Whitaker told the congressional panel the FAA signed an agreement this week to assess the safety and security capabilities of CACI’s product within a five-mile radius of airports, and the agency also will collaborate with its government partners.
There has been a steep increase in reports of drones in close proximity to runways which is posing a new challenge for the FAA. The agency is responsibility for identifying safety hazards and mitigating them before they lead to an incident.
The FAA in May 2015 announced the UAS Pathfinder Program of which CACI is a part. Pathfinder is the FAA’s framework that was designed to work closely with industry to explore the next steps in drone operations beyond those proposed in February in the draft small UAS rule.
Whitaker went on to say “safety is always the FAA’s top priority, and we are concerned about the increasing number of instances where pilots have reported seeing unmanned aircraft flying nearby. We are looking forward to working with CACI and our inter-agency partners to identify and evaluate new technologies that could enhance safety for all users of the nation’s airspace.”
“CACI is proud to partner in the FAA’s Pathfinder cooperative research and development agreement to address the escalating Unmanned Aircraft Systems safety challenges that airports are facing nationwide,” said John Mengucci, CACI’s Chief Operating Officer and President of U.S. Operations. “The agreement provides a proven way to passively detect, identify, and track UAS – or aerial drones – and their ground-based operators, in order to protect airspace from inadvertent or unlawful misuse of drones near U.S. airports. This CACI-built solution will help ensure a safe, shared airspace while supporting responsible UAS users’ right to operate their aircraft.”
The FAA will evaluate CACI’s prototype UAS sensor detection system at selected airports. The agency and its federal government partners will work with the company to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology, while also ensuring that it does not interfere with the safety and security of normal airport operations.