Global approach to integrating drone tracking required, ACI-NA report urges

Remote identification of drones so that target information, including ID and position, can be passed to ATC automatically needs to be urgently implemented on a global scale, according to an interim report by the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) on UAS Mitigation at Airports, set up by the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) in April 2019.

The BRTF was charged with providing recommendations to airports and the U.S. and Canadian governments regarding UAS mitigation at airports―including but not limited to reviewing UAS and counter-UAS (C-UAS) technology, airport protocols for addressing UAS incursions, and the policy framework around UAS integration and mitigation in and around airports.

The interim report represents the first phase of the BRTF’s exploration work. A more comprehensive report is underway for publication later in 2019. The BRTF puts forward the following recommendations as part of its interim report. Additional recommendations will follow in the final report.

These are the main recommendations

Remote ID

  • Remote ID technology is a critical component of the future UAS detection and identification landscape; the FAA and Transport Canada (TC) are unable to accomplish other regulatory advancements in UAS operations, such as small UAS operations over people and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights, until Remote ID is implemented. The BRTF urges the regulating authorities to expedite the publication of the Remote ID rule, and in the interim, the FAA and TC should find ways to incentivize voluntary compliance, such as with waivers for part 107 and 135 operations.
  • Remote ID should be interoperable with ATC automation, and the Air Navigation Service Provider (NAV CANADA) in Canada, such that target information, including ID and position, can be passed to ATC automatically and is able to display designated UAS targets of interest (e.g., by a public safety official, in Remote ID) to ATC personnel. The Remote ID standards also must be interoperable internationally―a UAS purchased in one country must be visible in the system of another nation.
  • Remote ID data also needs to be made available to airport operations and public safety professionals on a real-time basis to facilitate situational awareness and more effective identification of potential UAS threats and ultimately enable errant UAS to be directly associated with their registered operators.
  • The BRTF further encourages the FAA and TC to require identification of all UAS rather than exempting hobbyists from Remote ID and to consider requiring retailers and manufacturers to include identification so that future UAS are not sold without Remote ID. Creating this commonsense regulatory requirement will be a valuable step forward in enhancing safety and security.
  • The BRTF supports the FAA’s work to make the LAANC system available to recreational flyers. The BRTF understands the FAA will expand LAANC to include recreational flyers on July 23, 2019 and recommends operators attend its live drone webinar on July 18. The BRTF will follow the FAA’s progress on expanding the LAANC system.
  • The BRTF encourages the FAA to partner with the LAANC-authorized USS through the InterUSS Platform as soon as possible to enable another level of known information in the airport environment, including to local law enforcement and airport operators.
  • The BRTF supports new TC regulations that became effective on June 1, 2019, that apply to all Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) operating in Canadian airspace, which requires owners/ operators of RPAS to follow the requirements for operations in each class of Canadian airspace.

Communication & Response Planning

  • Industry, local law enforcement, and federal agencies should partner in developing airport community communications plans that would alert all stakeholders―including but not limited to air navigation service providers (e.g., the FAA Air Traffic Organization in the United States and NAV CANADA in Canada), airport and airfield operations, airport and local police departments, and airline control centers (to also notify pilots and ground crew)―of authorized UAS in the vicinity. This would help limit concerns about UAS operations in the airport environment and drive appropriate levels of response.
  • The prior observation notwithstanding, we understand that in the U.S., the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is developing UAS incursion response plans both at the local level (in this report termed “tactical UAS incursion response plans”) and on a national level (Unified National-Level Response to Persistent UAS Disruption of Operations at Core 30 Airports). In Canada, TC’s Task Force for RPAS is developing similar plans. The BRTF strongly recommends that response plans at both levels― the tactical and the national―be actively coordinated with airport operators and local law enforcement representatives starting at their earliest phases of development (especially tactical response plans) to ensure effective use of local resources and capabilities; effective coordination among federal, state, and local partners; and rapid and effective plan implementation.

Risk Assessment

  • The BRTF notes that clear threat assessment processes, well-defined and pre-coordinated response roles and responsibilities, and well-enumerated and understood decision-making processes are critical elements of effective airport UAS incursion response plans. These elements should be considered by North American airport operators in close coordination with federal partners when crafting their own UAS incursion response plans―something every airport should have in place. As the FAA recently noted and the BRTF concurs with, “A collaborative approach promotes responsible and effective decisions for how to respond to errant or malicious UAS operations.”2 The BRTF urges the federal government, including the TSA, to move rapidly forward in its work to develop airport security protocols for UAS incursions.
  • North American airport operators, local law enforcement, and their federal partners should work together during response plan development on site survey planning to map high-risk areas for UAS launches and incursions in and around airports. The site planning will provide understanding for law enforcement to respond in the search for an errant UAS operator by first targeting the most likely launch sites.

Response Management

  • Preparing for various UAS incursion scenarios―such as a long-term airport closure and the humanitarian, logistical, and communication plans required to effectively manage such a situation―should be part of the regular disaster response planning and training airports undertake. • With respect to the reopening of an airport and the airspace after a UAS incursion, an airport recovery protocol should be standardized to define recovery and reopening practices with specific lines of authority (transnational, federal, local, airport operator), with characteristics unique to each individual airport determined locally.
  • While it is not the position of the BRTF that the detection of UAS in the airport environment should necessarily default to airport operators, at the present time, some airports are moving forward with this mission given the absence of federal action. Therefore, the BRTF suggests that airports and the FAA work together to create an “interim standard” for AIP eligibility for the leasing/purchasing, deployment, staffing, and maintenance of Detection, Tracking, and Identification (DTI) equipment.

Standardization, Testing & Data

  • The FAA and TC must work to standardize their approach to UAS DTI technology integration at airports. The most recent guidance from FAA to airports (May 7, 2019) was a step in the right direction, but it leaves the entire burden on individual airports to seek independent legal guidance to confirm the legality of a potential UAS detection system. This approach subjects a single UAS detection system to multiple, potentially inconsistent, legal interpretations in various jurisdictions rather than taking a standardized approach under a uniform regime. This is not an efficient framework for airports or the FAA. The BRTF recommends that the FAA work to standardize approaches to UAS detection technology integration at airports with further testing, work toward uniform standards, and provide more straightforward guidance to airports seeking to deploy DTI technology. In Canada, TC has not provided any guidance to airports on this matter as of June 2019 but must do so as soon as practicable.
  • More testing and data collection of DTI and C-UAS technology is required, and federal authorities must work together on a pathway for DTI and C-UAS technology evaluation in commercial settings such as airports, with the ultimate goal of producing performance standards.
  • Understanding the extent and nature of UAS intrusions in the airport environment is a key factor in developing mitigation strategies. Individual agencies and operators are working to capture data; however, a combined unified effort could produce more valuable and usable results. The BRTF recommends federal agencies and industry collaborate to create a single UAS reporting system that will capture reports of suspected and confirmed sightings, intrusions, outcomes, etc. In Canada, the Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS) could be used as the recording system.
  • The BRTF believes that manufacturers should share in the responsibility for helping to restrict access to sensitive flight locations, including airports, except for those authorized for approved UAS missions, with the incorporation of geofencing technology. Education
  • More should be done to inform careless and clueless UAS operators about the risks and penalties associated with unauthorized or unsafe UAS operations near airports. Airports should work with local media, government officials, and law enforcement on high-profile public awareness campaigns about the dangers and prohibitions related to operating a UAS at an airport. Signs should be posted in and around airports, including high-probability launch points, with warnings and information on law enforcement action for violating airspace rules.
  • UAS knowledge tests for new UAS pilots should include questions to test potential pilots on the rules of operating at airports. Enforcement • Laws prohibiting UAS operations in restricted areas, including airports, must be strictly enforced. The BRTF recommends more resources be allocated to the swift and public prosecution of criminal actors. Robust enforcement will also serve as a deterrent to future would-be criminals. The BRTF will also study the issue of whether new laws are required at the federal, state, and local level to ensure that criminals are stopped and fully prosecuted.

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