With fears of planes colliding with “rogue” drones escalating, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday that it has launched a program testing drone detection technology at Kennedy Airport.
Though drones must stay 5 miles away from airports and under 400 feet, pilots across the country have spotted hundreds of drones in recent months, according to the FAA.
“We face many difficult challenges as we integrate rapidly evolving Unmanned Aircraft Sighting technology into our complex and highly regulated airspace,” Marke “Hoot” Gibson, FAA senior adviser on the project, said in a statement.
Starting May 2, the agency said it has tested an FBI detection system on about five different rotorcraft and fixed-wing drones. About 40 separate tests were conducted at Kennedy following similar research undertaken earlier this year at Atlantic City International Airport, the FAA said.
Signaling the seriousness of the threat of midair collisions, the FAA ran the tests at Kennedy in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Queens district attorney’s office and the Port Authority.
“This effort at JFK reflects everyone’s commitment to safety” Gibson said.
Thomas Bosco, Port Authority aviation director, said: “We look forward to supporting continued U.S. government efforts to identify and deploy countermeasures to neutralize the threat” posed by rogue drones.
As part of its program of evaluating “procedures and technologies” to identify unauthorized drones around airports, the FAA earlier this month said it had reached cooperative research and development agreements with several companies.
The FAA last year released proposed regulations for drones weighing less than 55 pounds, including requirements that the devices remain within the operator’s line of sight and be used only during daylight hours. Recreational drones must also be registered with the agency.
Roughly 700,000 drones were sold in the U.S. last year, the FAA said.