DOT to FAA. . . Step up your game on drone detection! | Fox Rothschild LLP
Counter drone technology is being developed and deployed by government agencies at an increasing rate. In light of this, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Subcommittee on Aviation have asked the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation (IG) to review how the FAA has handled these developments. and the potential impact counter-drone technology could have on the country. airspace system. The IG has published its report in the question last week, and found that the FAA’s efforts are lacking in several key areas.
Although the FAA has coordinated with agencies deploying counter-drone technology, the IG found that the FAA has not conducted a strategic assessment of the need for counter-drone technology to ensure that it has the resources and processes in place to keep pace with the increase. demand. According to the report, the FAA experienced a 340% increase in UAS detection and C-UAS coordination requests from other federal agencies between 2019 and 2020 alone.
More importantly, the IG found that the FAA had not yet completed the necessary testing of the UAS and C-UAS detection technologies and, therefore, could not fully assess their impact on the safety and security of the aircraft. aviation, and may not understand these impacts for several years.
The IG does not, however, place all the blame on the FAA for the slow pace of counter-drone testing. The IG noted that the FAA has been working on this program for a number of years, but the pace of testing has been seriously affected by COVID-19. Additionally, the IG determined that current testing efforts have been slowed due to supply chain issues that prevent vendors from obtaining system components. The IG estimates that because of these issues, the FAA won’t even have its phase one test results until 2024 at the earliest.
The FAA had the opportunity to respond to the IG report and acknowledged that more work needs to be done to balance “the safe integration of UAS into the national airspace system while addressing the concerns of safety and operational. The FAA also said the Office of Airports “identified the need for additional staff and created a new division to specifically handle new entrant and emerging issues, including airport UAS and UAS detection activities.” . Overall, the FAA “approves the recommendations to improve the strategic planning and mandatory testing of its UAS and C-UAS detection program, as written.” As a result, the FAA has committed to completing an assessment of needed resources by the end of this year and improving the effectiveness of its coordination process with other agencies by February 28, 2023.
While this report and the FAA’s positive response are a welcome development, it is clear that more needs to be done. In particular, the fact that the FAA will not be able to complete Phase 1 of its 5-Phase Airport UAS Detection and Mitigation Research Program until 2024 is troubling. Now that the effects of COVID-19 are diminishing, the FAA will be able to make up some of its lost ground.