Five US airports will install systems this year that will detect unmanned aerial vehicles and, if necessary, neutralize them. The US aviation authority FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) announced last week. The largest airport involved is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) in Seattle.
Also involved are airports in Atlantic City (ACY) in New Jersey, in Syracuse (SYR) in New York, in Columbus (LCK) in Ohio, and in Huntsville (HSV) in Alabama. The FAA selected these airports because they represent varied test environments and have operating conditions that are also found in other parts of the country. Airports have been looking for answers to unwanted drones for years.
The five airports are to try out at least ten different methods by 2023. It is crucial that they do not interfere with the safe operation of the airport. The FAA emphasizes that only federal agencies expressly authorized by law are allowed to take action against aerial drones that have previously agreed with the FAA.
The needle in the haystack
Drone defense is facing enormous challenges: Small drones are difficult to detect, especially if you don’t know when and where to look for what exactly. In addition, the location of the drone pilot is usually unknown. To make matters worse, you can’t look at the aircraft to see whether or what they are carrying.
Once a drone has been assessed as dangerous, it must be responded to within seconds. In theory, surface-to-air missiles can help, but they can do significant collateral damage. Such an explosion over a city would often be worse than the possible explosion of a drone bomb. In addition, surface-to-air missiles are extremely expensive, so that they cannot be permanently available everywhere.
Different defense system vendors use different methods, including electromagnetic waves, lasers, drone capture with nets, and brute force. At the same time, attempts are being made to classify harmless drones as such, which should make it easier to concentrate on real dangers. This is used as an argument for the planned real-time monitoring of all aerial drones in the USA.