In testimony recently given before the House Aviation Subcommittee, FAA Deputy Administrator Mike Whitaker said that flying an unmanned aircraft near a busy airfield poses an unacceptable safety hazard. During the hearing, Whitaker told the congressional panel the FAA signed an agreement to assess the safety and security capabilities of CACI’s product within a five-mile radius of airports.
A steep increase in reports of small unmanned aircraft in close proximity to runways is presenting a new challenge for the FAA. It is the agency’s responsibility to identify possible gaps in safety and address them before an incident occurs, officials note
The CACI partnership is part of the larger Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Pathfinder Program, which the FAA announced in May 2015. Pathfinder is a framework for the agency to work with industry to explore the next steps in unmanned aircraft operations beyond those proposed in February in the draft small UAS rule.
“Safety is always the FAA’s top priority, and we are concerned about the increasing number of instances where pilots have reported seeing unmanned aircraft flying nearby,” said Whitaker. “We are looking forward to working with CACI and our interagency partners to identify and evaluate new technologies that could enhance safety for all users of the nation’s airspace.”
CACI’s prototype RPA sensor detection system will be evaluated at airports selected by the FAA. The agency and its federal government partners will work with the company to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology, while also ensuring that it does not interfere with the safety and security of normal airport operations, FAA officials said.