UAS Detection, Mitigation, and Response on Airports

As the number of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operating in our National Airspace System (NAS) continues to rise, so does airport operators’ desire to deploy new technologies for the detection or mitigation of unauthorized use of UAS in the NAS.

Since 2016, the Office of Airports Safety & Standards (AAS) has issued several guidance and policy documents regarding UAS detection and mitigation technology at airports. Subject areas covered in these documents include legal considerations, potential electromagnetic interference (EMI) to communication and navigation equipment, and on-airport airspace case processing, among others. With the increased availability and rapid advancement of this technology, it is important for the FAA to assess airport impacts before airport operators deploy this equipment.

These systems generally fit into two categories:

  • UAS Detection Systems
    These technologies range from Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) systems to made-to-order systems developed by system integrators. Primary detection sources are those sensors that have a greater level of system autonomy, providing alerts generated upon detection and prompting further investigation by the detection system operator. Technologies, such as radar and radio frequency (RF), electro-optic (EO), and acoustic sensors, are sometimes stand-alone or combined to perform primary and secondary validations. Detection systems do not have the ability to determine intent or the level of threat posed by UAS.
  • UAS Mitigation Systems (Counter [C]-UAS)
    UAS mitigation or countermeasures include the capability to disrupt, disable, destroy, take control of, and/or provide alternate flight instructions to a UAS. Some UAS detection systems may have countermeasure capabilities built-in, which can be disabled, while others may offer them as an optional modular capability. FAA currently does not support the usage of C-UAS systems by any entity other than the federal departments (Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and Energy) that have explicit statutory authority to use this technology.

Coordination prior to the installation and/or deployment of UAS detection and mitigation systems enables the FAA to provide technical assistance regarding notification made in accordance with 14 CFR part 77, protecting sensitive security information, and regulatory and grant assurance compliance. Further, the operational use of UAS detection and mitigation systems may provoke response actions that disrupt air traffic operations at your airport or otherwise introduce undesirable safety and efficiency impacts. These potential second-order effects can be effectively addressed through risk-based procedures coordinated with the FAA.

Currently, the FAA requires all airports certified under part 139 to have an approved UAS Response Plan for the interruption of airport operations and/or the safe operations of manned air traffic be included in their Airport Certification Manual (ACM). This plan provides specific guidance to the airport operator on steps to follow in the event of unauthorized UAS activity, including the safe return to normal operations after the event. This plan is coordinated with Air Traffic Control (ATC), Airport Operations, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and law enforcement.

Office Contact
FAA Airports Emerging Entrants Division

General Questions

Keri Lyons, Manager

Ray Zee, Program Manager

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Guidance & Policy

Additional Information


Last updated: Thursday, April 25, 2024