Federal agencies Air Transportation

GAO calls on FAA to better examine drone flights near airports

Photo: Richard Newstead/gettyimages

Washington — The Federal Aviation Administration should make sure its strategy on safely integrating drones into the National Airspace System assesses how counter-drone technologies at airports affect its efforts, the Government Accountability Office says.

FAA is developing a drone integration strategy, expected to be completed by June 30. The agency regulates the commercial use of drones – also known as unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS – under 14 CFR Part 107.

Provisions prohibit operation in most controlled airspace – such as near airports – without agency authorization.

Cases of unauthorized drones flying near airports are increasing and can present a safety risk to aircraft and compromise air traffic control operations, GAO says in a new report.

“As the number of drone incidents rises, it is increasingly likely that these drone incidents, whether accidental or intentional, could overwhelm local authorities’ ability to respond and cause major disruptions to operations, damage infrastructure and harm people,” the report states.

After analyzing FAA planning documents and federal regulations and interviewing industry stakeholders about the effects of counter-drone technologies, GAO concluded that FAA “does not address how it will assess those effects.”

GAO recommends Congress amend statutory authorities related to drone detection and counter-drone operations to “better protect airports against an active drone threat.”

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