The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) funding forecast during the next five years shows a steady commitment to the agency’s efforts to test, evaluate and identify technologies that may be useful to counter small drones in an airport environment.
The agency’s capital investment plan (CIP), which was delivered to Congress in early December, shows a funding profile amounting to $58.7 million over the period covering fiscal years 2022 through 2026 for counter-unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS). The planned investments would grow from $10.7 million in FY ’22 to $12.2 million in FY ’26, a 14 percent increase.
TSA in August at Miami International Airport began a test and evaluation program of technologies that can passively detect, track and identify (DTI) small UAS. That effort is, and will be, ongoing as a testbed and will be complemented early in 2022 by a parallel C-UAS effort at Los Angeles International Airport to validate and verify DTI technologies.
In the CIP, TSA says “The number of encounters with UAS around airports and with civil aircraft have increased over the years as UASs proliferate. Additionally, the capabilities of UASs continue to advance rapidly—they fly longer, faster, with heavier payloads, across farther distances, and more independently—and will continue to pose an increased risk to the aviation domain.”
Eventually, TSA hopes to test technologies that would mitigate drones that pose a safety or security threat to aircraft and airports.
The research and development effort will examine the gamut of DTI technologies for drones, including radar, electro-optical and infrared cameras, acoustic sensors, radio frequency receivers and emitters, and artificial intelligence. The agency will also look at various deployment modes including fixed and semi-fixed systems, dismounted and handheld, mounted and mobile, and command and control systems.
TSA’s testing program is running parallel to another within the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, which earlier this year examined the use of DTI technologies against small drones and aircraft in plains and mountainous environments. One of the early lessons from those evaluations includes the need for vendors to use existing industry standards to ensure interoperability of systems and sensors to better enable system-of-systems solutions.
The Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year also said it would begin testing of C-UAS technologies at five airports around the U.S.