FAA and Partners Put Counter-UAS Technology to Work at Airport

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) – managers of the FAA-designated unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site in Nevada – teamed up with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota to test counter-UAS technology at Denver International Airport (DIA).

The FAA and its partners are working to evaluate new technologies for detecting unmanned aircraft near airports, and according to NIAS, the DIA FAA test represented a major milestone in the right direction for developing minimum operational performance standards for drone detection at major airport and critical infrastructure locations.

“This latest test proves that safety and privacy remain paramount concerns in developing a thriving unmanned aerial systems industry, and Nevada is grateful and excited to be a lead participant in these groundbreaking efforts,” comments Tom Wilczek, aerospace and defense industry specialist for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

“We flew over a half dozen fixed-wing and multi-rotor drones during the ground detection system testing in Denver,” says Chris Walach, director of the Nevada UAS test site.

According to an announcement from the FAA, the work was done in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security as part of the FAA’s Pathfinder Program for UAS detection at airports and critical infrastructure.

The team included Nevada-based Eye in the Sky UAS, Colorado-based UASUSA, North Dakota-based ISight RPV Services, and the Nevada UAS test site flight team. Nevada’s Silver Springs Airport participated as the primary training location for all flight crews.

Walach continues, “This was a first: two UAS test sites jointly executing a very high-profile FAA Pathfinder mission in Class B Airspace. The Nevada Team did exactly what a World Series UAS team could have done in any high-profile scenario – achieving the first to fly in the Class B National Airspace, which occurred day and night through multi-aircraft operations under severe cold-weather and snow conditions. Simply put, these tests mark a big step forward in developing a counter unmanned systems industry.”

The FAA says it plans to evaluate other sites such as Atlantic City International Airport, JFK International Airport, Eglin Air Force Base, Helsinki Airport and Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. The agency will compile its findings and draft recommendations for standards that will “guide the selection of drone-detection systems for airports nationwide.”

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