Working with its partners in the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration wants to provide a list of qualified products for airports to use in obtaining drone security technologies, David Pekoske, the administrator of TSA, said on Tuesday.
Highlighting that the Secret Service and Coast Guard already have experience with counter unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS), Pekoske said, “We’re trying to take those best examples to be able to provide to airports what we call a qualified products list, which is equipment that we have tested, we have certified it meets a certain performance threshold and we have determined that it is affordable for maintenance and reliability.”
TSA last year was designated the lead federal agency to implement a concept of operations for C-UAS solutions at the 30 largest airports in the U.S. The designation follows legislation Congress approved in October 2018 giving DHS and the FBI authorities to counter drones around select facilities.
Initially, TSA is focused on detecting, monitoring and identifying potential threats and safety concerns from drones around airports, Pekoske said. Eventually, the agency will also focus on efforts to mitigate drone threats, he said.
Pekoske pointed out that the focus on the “Core 30” airports is due to the “significant cascading affect” a disruption caused by a drone would have on the rest of the air transportation system.
TSA is seeking $3 million in its fiscal year 2021 budget request for 28 new positions, some of which will help with airport vulnerability assessments, additional lawyers to support C-UAS operations, and watchstanders, Pekoske said. TSA already does assessment of UAS vulnerabilities for the Core 30 airports, he said.
TSA eventually wants to get beyond the Core 30 airports with C-UAS capabilities, he said.
TSA, in its FY ’21 budget request, cited disruptions caused by small drones at international airports in London, Newark, N.J., and Dublin, Ireland, over several months in 2018 and 2019 that led “airports and airlines to incur massive economic loss by halting arrivals and departures or re-routing traffic, and diminishing the confidence of the traveling public.”
TSA officials in December said that within the next year they hope to have a testbed at a major U.S. airport to begin evaluating different technologies for detecting, tracking and identifying small drones flying nearby. Eventually, they want to test the ability to defeat drone threats.
Pekoske also highlighted that the DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate is conducting research into C-UAS capabilities. In its FY ’21 budget request, S&T is seeking $35.9 million for C-UAS work, $13 million above the FY ’20 appropriation.
“This level of funding will be used to identify and document DHS Components cUAS mission needs, evaluate cUAS technologies that address those needs, and integrate, test and deploy cUAS capabilities to Department prioritized critical assets, facilities and special events,” S&T says in documents accompanying its budget request. “Based on DHS Component requirements, approximately twenty cUAS kits will be integrated, tested and piloted.”
S&T also says that its “Urban cUAS Operational Prototype will be an enduring test and evaluation” process that will result in “validated technologies” for operational use.