U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is urging the Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to work with the private and public sector on technology to defend against small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
According to Sen. Warner, although UAS have enormous potential for government and commercial use, their ubiquity poses security challenges.
“While the vast majority of UAS operate safely, a series of high-profile incidents over the last year have shown that it is also necessary to [rapidly] develop technologies that can ensure the safe operation of drones around sensitive areas like airports and high-profile locations like the White House, where an unmanned drone landed in January,” Sen. Warner wrote in a letter to Secretary Anthony Foxx.
In addition to the incident on Jan. 26, there has been a series of recent episodes across the globe that have underscored the potential safety threats posed by the aircraft, the senator says, citing unidentified drones over nuclear power plants in France; drones spotted near the Eiffel Tower and other Parisian landmarks; drones attempting to smuggle drugs and other weapons into a prison in the U.K.; and a drone, carrying radioactive sand, that landed on the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office.
“In this regard, I recommend that the Department consider a pilot project at an American airport to coordinate and interrelate UAS mitigation technology with an airport system to determine best practices,” he wrote.
“This could provide a blueprint for U.S. airports to establish protocols to protect airports against both innocuous recreational UAS mishaps, as well as more nefarious incursions.
“As this is becoming such an important matter, I encourage you to personally take the lead in our federal government’s efforts to create a framework for the safe and appropriate usage of UAS.”
Sen. Warner says he has long advocated for the testing and development of UAS and worked with his Virginia and Maryland colleagues to urge federal officials to select the mid-Atlantic region to host a UAS test range, which became operational last year.
The full text of Sen. Warner’s letter to Secretary Foxx can be found here.