FAA Sets Up Committee to Work on Integrating Drones

The agency also revealed Feb. 18 that it is now partnering with the Department of Homeland Security and CACI International, an information and services company, and testing the ability of CACI's prototype detection technology to detect drones near airports.

The Federal Aviation Administration is making progress on drones in two ways. The agency announced Feb. 24 that it is establishing an aviation rulemaking committee with industry stakeholders to develop recommendations for a regulatory framework that would allow some drones to be operated over people who are not directly involved in the operation of the aircraft; the committee will begin its work in March and issue a final report to the FAA on April 1. And FAA revealed Feb. 18 that it is now partnering with the Department of Homeland Security and CACI International, an information and services company, and testing the ability of CACI's prototype detection technology to detect drones near airports.

"The department continues to be bullish on new technology. We recognize the significant industry interest in expanding commercial access to the National Airspace System," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "The short deadline reinforces our commitment to a flexible regulatory approach that can accommodate innovation while maintaining today's high levels of safety."

FAA will draft a rulemaking proposal after reviewing the committee's report. "Based on the comments about a 'micro' classification submitted as part of the small UAS proposed rule, the FAA will pursue a flexible, performance-based regulatory framework that addresses potential hazards instead of a classification defined primarily by weight and speed," explained FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. To do this, FAA is seeking advice and recommendations from a range of aviation stakeholders, including UAS manufacturers and operators, consensus standards organizations, researchers, and academics.

The detection testing took place at Atlantic City International from Jan. 25 to Feb. 2. "The explosive growth of the unmanned aircraft industry makes evaluating detection technologies an urgent priority," said Marke Gibson, FAA's senior advisor on UAS Integration. "This research is totally aimed at keeping our skies safe, which is our number one mission."

CACI Chief Operating Officer and President of U.S. Operations John Mengucci said the testing showed that the company's system, SkyTracker, "performed as designed. SkyTracker successfully identified, detected, and tracked UAS in flight and precisely located drone ground operators – all without interfering with airport ground operations. We are very proud to partner with the FAA and DHS to help ensure national airspace safety from the escalating UAS threat."

The testing involved 141 operations were executed over five days, with 72 using a drone on the ground and 69 with different small drones in flight. In the coming months, engineers from FAA, DHS, CACI, and the University of Maryland (also was a partner in the evaluation) will compile the data for a final report by August 2016.

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