FAA warns US airports that counter-UAS equipment may pose a safety risk

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued new advice to airports seeking to acquire counter-UAS systems. “In order to support the safe integration of UAS detection systems into the airport environment, the FAA provided important information and continues to work closely with airport operators who are considering installing UAS detection systems or have already installed such systems on or near their airports,” said an FAA statement on 7 May. “The agency expects to supplement this information with additional information related to UAS detection system coordination as we refine our processes and procedures for safe UAS detection system use and coordinated operational response at or around airports. The FAA also provided information regarding the prohibition on the use of non-federal counter-UAS technologies at or around airports. These systems could pose an aviation safety risk by interfering with aircraft navigation and air navigation services. The FAA does not support the use of counter-UAS systems by any entities other than federal departments with explicit statutory authority to use this technology, including requirements for extensive coordination with the FAA to ensure safety risks are mitigated.”

The FAA has also given a more detailed breakdown of its policy views on counter UAS equipment procurement (https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/media/Updated-Information-UAS-Detection-Countermeasures-Technology-Airports-20190507.pdf).

The following text is taken from this statement.

“Entities seeking to evaluate or deploy UAS detection systems should be aware the evaluation or deployment of such systems, even systems that are marketed as passive detection systems, may implicate provisions of law (such as title 18 of the United States Code) on which the FAA cannot authoritatively opine. Therefore, the FAA cannot confirm the legality of any UAS detection system.

“An entity considering installing a UAS detection system may wish to seek system specific and site-specific guidance from its legal counsel and/or the appropriate authorities.

“Turning to aviation laws, the installation or deployment of UAS detection systems may implicate requirements under 49 U.S.C. § 44718, as implemented by 14 CFR part 77. Entities proposing construction or alteration of existing structures in the vicinity of an airport must file notice with the FAA. (See also, FAA Order 7400.2M, Procedures for Handling Airspace Matters (February 28, 2019).

“The required notice allows the FAA to conduct an aeronautical study of the potential for the height of a proposed structure and any electromagnetic broadcast signals that create a hazard to air navigation, including interference with aircraft and navigational aids. Moreover, the installation or deployment of UAS detection systems by sponsors of commercial service airports may also implicate other regulatory requirements under title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Holders of Airport Operating Certificates issued under 14 CFR Part 139 must protect navigational aids. See 14 CFR § 139.333.

“Commercial service airport operators may also need to update the contents of their airport certification manuals to include operating procedures for the use of a UAS detection system. See 14 CFR § 139.203.

“Finally, federally obligated airports may need to assure the installation or deployment of a UAS detection system is consistent with applicable grant assurance obligations. Grant Assurance 20, Hazard Removal and Mitigation, requires airport sponsors to take appropriate action to assure that such terminal airspace as is required to protect operations to the airport will be adequately cleared and protected by mitigating existing airport hazards and preventing future hazards. Grant Assurance 29, Airport Layout Plan requires an airport sponsor to maintain an up-to-date Airport Layout Plan showing airport facilities and structures. Coordination prior to the installation and/or deployment of UAS detection systems enables the FAA to provide technical assistance regarding regulatory and grant assurance compliance.

“Further, the operational use of UAS detection systems may provoke response actions that disrupt air traffic operations at your airport or otherwise introduce undesirable safety and efficiency impacts. These potential second-order effects can be effectively addressed through risk-based procedures coordinated with the FAA. In addition to ongoing near-term work to provide airport sponsors with supplemental information regarding the use of UAS detection systems, the U.S. Government is working to develop the federal response to a persistent UAS disruption at a major airport. Additional information will be provided on this interagency effort in the near future along with opportunities for feedback and collaboration. The FAA also expects to supplement this letter with additional information related to UAS detection system coordination as we refine our processes and procedures for safe UAS detection system use at or around airports.”


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