TSA's drone-detecting technology introduced at Los Angeles Airport: Travel Weekly

The TSA has begun testing state-of-the-art drone detection technology at Los Angeles Airport.

The testing, which will be undertaken as part of the agency’s UAS Test Bed Program, comes during a year in which 38 drones have been seen within three miles of the LAX perimeter. Since the beginning of last year, there have been approximately 90 visual sightings and 5,200 technical detections of drones within the LAX perimeter, the TSA said.

LAX joins Miami Airport, where the TSA began a similar testing program last summer. Since that time, the systems being tested in the pilot program have detected thousands of drone flights in the airport vicinity, the TSA said.

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Drones pose a danger to commercial and private aviation, with a primary worry being the possibility of collisions. And while aircraft are more than likely to survive such a collision without harm, that’s not guaranteed, especially if the drone becomes engaged with an aircraft engine.

Drones are prohibited in controlled airspace around airports unless authorization is obtained in advance. In addition, most drones operating in the U.S. are required to be equipped with remote tracking capabilities.

The TSA noted that many U.S. drones are equipped with GPS software that restricts their use in remote locations. Still, some operators do not follow the rules.

Aside from posing danger, drone incursions into controlled airport airspace can be disruptive. In June, a drone flown near a runway at Washington’s Reagan National Airport caused the FAA to shut down air traffic for approximately 45 minutes.

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The studies being conducted in Miami and now Los Angeles will help airports, the FAA and other airport stakeholders determine effective technologies that could be used within the complicated milieu of an operational airport environment, the TSA said.

The federal government is also testing technology that could intercept drones that pose a risk to aviation. In March 2021 the FAA announced that it would begin a UAS Detection and Mitigation Research Program at five airports. Testing in Atlantic City; Columbus, Ohio; Seattle; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Huntsville, Ala., was expected to last through next year.

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