October 7, 2015 / 2:05 PM / 2 years ago

FAA says it will test ways to track rogue drone flights

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration will test new technology to detect and track rogue drone flights around U.S. airports through a partnership with Arlington, Virginia-based CACI International Inc, the agency said on Wednesday.

The FAA is also testing other safety- and security-related technologies including geo-fencing software in response to a recent surge in unauthorized drone flights near airports and crowded public venues, Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker said testified before a House aviation subcommittee.

“We will assess the results of that technology as well as geo-fencing as well as other technologies to try to develop an approach in conjunction with other agencies that have a security issue involved here,” Whitaker told lawmakers.

He said FAA is also considering setting up a registry with manufacturers to keep track of drone owners, whether commercial or recreational. Congress in 2012 prevented FAA from regulating recreational drones, which are believed to be involved in many rogue flights.

Officials say the growing number of unauthorized drone flights pose a safety and security risk to the public. But authorities have been able to track down the operators of the unmanned aerial systems in only a tiny fraction of cases.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon have been involved in developing jamming technologies that could be deployed by federal authorities and local police.

CACI International is a multinational professional services and information technology company that has contracted with federal agencies in the defense, intelligence and homeland security areas.

Whitaker also told the House panel that FAA and private sector partners have demonstrated technology that would enable commercial drones to detect and avoid aircraft and other objects automatically as well as radio controls.

Experts say detect-and-avoid and radio command-and-control technologies would be necessary for drones to fly autonomously over longer distances in package delivery systems envisioned by companies such as Amazon.com and Google The FAA has proposed new regulations for commercial drone use. But the rules include restrictions that could limit commercial applications including provisions requiring unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to fly within an operator’s line of sight and during daylight hours only. A final version of the regulations is expected early next year.

“We are already looking beyond the small UAS rulemaking at what comes next in terms of the types of operations expected and what technologies we may need to certify to ensure safety,” Whitaker in written testimony.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Bernard Orr and David Gregorio

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