Drones are becoming more popular with both commercial users and hobbyists. But, as CivSource has previously reported, that means the number of near misses between drones and airplanes are also on the rise, despite rules limiting where drones can fly. The FAA has taken steps to start registering drone users and is also researching a training methodology for pilots, but until that’s ready for prime time more close calls are likely to happen. Now, the FAA is working with the Denver Airport to test anti-drone technology to keep drones out of the way of airplanes in its airspace.
The FAA first announced plans to test the technology during the recent UTM 2016 convention in Syracuse, N.Y.
Finnish company Sensofusion will be providing the anti-drone technology for the Denver test. Sensofusion has already brought its anti-drone AIRFENCE solution to market globally, and the FAA tests could open the door for the solution in the US. “In regards to the US, we are starting to the see the demand and it’s coming fast,” Sensofusion vice president of operations, Kaveh Mahdavi, said in an interview with CivSource.
AIRFENCE works by tracking, disabling and tracing the signal source of drones once they enter an airspace monitored by its sensors. Air traffic controllers and other officials are also alerted when drones enter the airspace. AIRFENCE can track an area of up to 6 miles. AIRFENCE users also get a steady stream of data about how frequently drones enter the airspace and where they tend to be – information that can be valuable when it comes to keeping flight paths clear for airplanes as they take off and land.
The Denver Airport test came as the result of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the FAA. The FAA has also signed similar agreements with Gryphon Sensors and Liteye Systems Inc.
Mahdavi adds that there are several other areas where the AIRFENCE might be beneficial, including law enforcement, corrections, critical infrastructure or commercial applications. AIRFENCE can also get the MAC addresses of users, giving law enforcement information to take action if drones start hovering in unauthorized airspace. “The range of our devices can allow for large areas to be monitored without having to install a lot of hardware,” Mahdavi says. Updates to the AIRFENCE can be pushed over the air in order to keep the signal monitoring on pace with new developments in drone technology.
Sensofusion is working with a number of stakeholders in the US and abroad to highlight the importance of anti-drone sensors. Mahdavi notes that while drones can be beneficial for monitoring, it is also important that only authorized drones enter sensitive airspace.
The FAA has plans to conduct similar trials at other airports over the coming year and is also working on other pilot projects through its test sites across the US.