The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday said it has entered into a Pathfinder agreement with CACI International [CACI] to evaluate the company’s technology for detecting unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) near airports.

“Safety is always the FAA’s top priority, and we are concerned about the increasing number of instances where pilots have reported seeing unmanned aircraft nearby,” Mike Whitaker, deputy FAA Administrator, told the House Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation. “We are looking forward to working with CACI and our interagency partners to identify and evaluate new technologies that could enhance safety for all users of the nation’s airspace.”

Precision Drone's Pacesetter UAS for the agricultural industry. Photo: Precision Drones
Precision Drone’s Pacesetter UAS for the agricultural industry. Photo: Precision Drones

CACI has developed a prototype UAS sensor detection system that will be evaluated at airports selected by the FAA.

“The agreement provides a proven way to passively detect, identify, and track UAS—or aerial drones—and their ground-based operators, in order to protect airspace from inadvertent or unlawful misuse of drones near U.S. airports,” John Mengucci, CACI’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “The unique capability to also identify the UAS operator enhances law enforcement ability to engage the operators.”

Mengucci also stated that CACI’s system is scalable for wide-area protection at airports, military bases and other areas and can be used continuously around-the-clock in all weather conditions without interfering with other electronics or communications systems.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), chairman of the subcommittee, said in his opening remarks that that the increased sightings of UAS near airports means “the real possibility of a mid-air collision must be taken seriously in order to prevent tragic consequences.”

LoBiondo said that in 2014 the FAA received 238 reports of drone sightings and so far this year more than 600.

The FAA announced the Pathfinder program in May. The program is a framework for the agency to work with industry to explore its next steps in UAS operations.