The agency that oversees airports and seaports in the New York City region on Wednesday said it is working with federal agencies on detecting and mitigating threats from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) following drone sightings on Tuesday that delayed flights into Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said that last week it hosted a working session “to review and enhance protocols for the rapid detection and interdiction of drones.” In addition to port authority officials, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), FBI, Department of Homeland Security, the New York and New Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Forces, the New York Police Department, New York and New Jersey State Police, the Coast Guard and others were at the meeting.
In its statement, the port authority said it can’t discuss specifics about the drone security work session, offering, “We are committed to keeping Port Authority airports at the forefront of protection and technology.”
NBC News and The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday broke news of the delayed flights into Newark. An FAA spokesperson said in a statement to Defense Daily on Wednesday that around 5 p.m. on Tuesday the agency received two reports from incoming flights sighting a drone “about 3500 feet above Teterboro, New Jersey,” which led to a brief hold on flights into the airport and ground delays elsewhere for aircraft departing to Newark.
“We have an ongoing 24/7 line of communication with DHS, other federal security partners, and law enforcement to rapidly respond to any perceived security threat to an airport,” the spokesperson said. “Every day, we deal with disruptions to the national airspace system—ranging from storms to equipment outages—and have well-developed procedures to maintain safe and efficient operations at U.S. airports.”
The incident at Newark follows a spate of drone sighting around Gatwick Airport near London in December that disrupted flights and led to hundreds being canceled. In response, the Royal Air Force initially deployed anti-drone technology before the airport acquired its own system to help counter UAS. The airport hasn’t identified the system it is operating.
Neither the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey nor the FAA would discuss specific responses to the drone sighting around Newark.
“We are committed to continuing our collaboration with the FAA and federal and state law enforcement partners to protect against any and all drone threats to the maximum extent possible,” the port authority’s statement said.
Congress last year approved, and President Trump signed, a new law that gives DHS and the Department of Justice authorities to deploy counter UAS systems in certain areas. The legislation also permits DHS to test counter UAS technologies, which in the U.S. have only been deployed in limited areas under laws giving the Defense and Energy Departments’ authorities to protect their assets from drones.
DHS wants to test counter-drone technologies in a variety of environments to see how different systems might impact nearby electronics used in critical infrastructure operations and in other settings.
The FAA has sponsored testing of technologies to detect and monitor drones flying near airports. The agency plans a proposed rulemaking this spring related to the remote identification of drones and their operators operating near airports. Having the remote identification capability would allow law enforcement authorities to help get a wayward UAS out of the local airspace.
The FAA last week also issued a draft rulemaking seeking public feedback on ways to mitigate risks to public safety and national security from small drones operating in the national airspace.