FAA expands Pathfinder programme to help drone detection
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has expanded its Pathfinder programme, which focuses on the detection and identification of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flying too close to airports.
As part of the expansion, the agency has signed cooperative research and development agreements (CRDAs) with three different entities, namely Gryphon Sensors, Liteye Systems and Sensofusion.
Designed to address the FAA's initiative to provide safe integration of UAS into the nation's airspace, the new agreement will evaluate the selected companies' prototype UAS sensor detection systems at airports.
Along with its federal government partners, particularly the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the FAA will work with the companies to study how effective their respective technologies are, while ensuring they do not interfere with the safety and security of normal airport operations.
Liteye Systems president Thomas Scott said: "As the legitimate use of unmanned vehicles becomes more prevalent in many industries, unfortunately this large number of aircraft also makes them readily available for illicit use.
"With the right technologies, we can assist the UAV operator to conduct his mission, while protecting against those who wish us harm."
Sensofusion stated that the company had first developed its technology, airfence, to detect, locate, track, and gain control over UAS three years ago as a military project and operated it with three European armies under Nato.
AIRFENCE is currently operating at various customer sites in Europe, including prisons, high-profile government buildings, police, and military sites.
Since the technology is software-based, it helps to improve over-the-air updates and commercial UAS market.
The newly signed CRDAs is also expecting to pave the way for bringing industry collaborative efforts to develop system standards to identify unauthorised UAS flights near airports, which could pose a hazard to manned aircraft.
FAA is witnessing a sharp increase in reports of small UAS close to airports over the last two years.
The agency has also partnered with DHS and CACI International on similar research to explore how that company's prototype technology may assist UAS detection.
Image: New agreement will evaluate the selected companies' prototype UAS sensor detection systems at airports. Photo: courtesy of khunaspix via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.