Washington – The Federal Aviation Administration today selected Syracuse’s airport as one of five in the nation where companies will test technologies that detect and block drones that pose a threat to commercial airlines.
Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport won a nationwide competition to be a federal test site, according to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. John Katko, who supported the airport’s application.
The FAA plans to install, test and evaluate at least 10 different technologies and systems developed to detect and possibly disable or counter small drones that sometimes stray near airports that handle civilian passenger air traffic.
Hobbyists must have FAA authorization to operate recreational drones near airports in the United States.
But airports have reported a series of near misses between passenger jets and unauthorized drones on the approaches to airports in recent years.
London’s Heathrow Airport, one of the world’s busiest, deployed a system to block drones from entering its airspace last year after a series of drone sightings by incoming pilots there and at nearby Gatwick Airport.
The FAA plans to award Syracuse’s Hancock Airport grants totaling about $100,000 to offset the airport’s cost during the testing program, which is expected to last two years.
Jason Terreri, the airport’s executive director, said passengers flying in and out of Syracuse will not be affected by the testing.
Terreri told syracuse.com the idea is to “see what works and what doesn’t” when it comes to detecting and blocking drones in a real-world environment. “The public shouldn’t see anything different,” he said.
The tests will be independent of those conducted by Syracuse-based Nuair, a consortium that operates a 50-mile drone testing corridor between Syracuse and Rome. The corridor is one of 10 national test sites for drone technology authorized by the FAA.
More than 2,500 test flights have already been conducted in the corridor, ranging from unmanned planes the size of a Cessna to small drones similar to recreational quadcopters.
The FAA began testing the airport drone detection and blocking systems last year at its technical center next to Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey.
Four more airports were added today: Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, Ohio; Huntsville International Airport in Huntsville, Ala.; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington; and Syracuse.
The federal government’s goal is to develop standards and guidance for airports to safely use counter-drone systems.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the Syracuse airport’s selection for the tests will help solidify the region’s repuation as a national test site for unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones.
“Safely integrating UAS into the national airspace has enormous economic and national security potential for the United States,” Schumer said. “This FAA selection proves that there is no better place in the country to harness that potential than right here in Central New York.”
Hancock Airport is also the first commercial airport in the United States to allow military drones to fly unescorted in its airspace. The New York Air National Guard flies its MQ-9 Reaper attack drones in and out of the airport on training missions.