The Federal Aviation Administration is monitoring the security risks posed by drones as their use continues to increase, with the agency expecting $9 billion in drone sales by 2024. As of January 2021, there were 1,782,479 drones registered in the United States by the FAA. 27% of registrations (522,645) were for commercial operation. That population is expected to reach 3.5 million drones by the year 2024! For a sense of the sheer magnitude of this population, compare it to some of the well-known raptors found across North America. At 2.3 Million estimated individuals, Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are the most numerous on our list, with Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) and Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) making up the rest of our tally with 500,000, 300,000 and 250,000 estimated individuals, respectively. Adding up these estimates into a combined total gives us 3.35 Million estimated raptors. A full 200,000 individuals shy of the FAAs drone estimate. Of course, not all those drones will be in the air at the same time, but we can probably assume at least 15% of them can be airborne at some point during an average day. That means that currently, an estimated 165,000 drones could be airborne at some point on the day you are reading this article. With Covid-19 essentially changing the way we do everything the talk and even development of drone delivery services by Amazon exist and is not slowing down in momentum and development.
What does a significant increase in drone use mean for your facility? Increase presence around airports, invasions of privacy, security risks, the list goes on and on. In today’s ultra-modern, highspeed atmosphere, the ability to adequately secure an area is more difficult than ever, and one common breach of security is using drones. Now, the word Security may evoke thoughts of people in uniform physically securing an event, such as a sporting event or VIP event in a city center, but it can also mean a private residence, where an average homeowner may want to make sure that no one is spying on them and theirs by unscrupulous folks down the street. Whatever the case may be, the ability to unequivocally know that any area of interest is secure is a necessary evil in today’s world.
But as events like the December 2018 disruption of service at London Gatwick Airport have shown, education and deterrence are not enough — and a single clueless or nefarious drone operator can have an outsized impact. That incident resulted in a loss of $25-60 million in revenue for airports and airlines, according to Justin Barkowski, vice president for regulatory affairs at the American Association of Airport Executives, and 160,000 people missed flights. Investigators never determined who was responsible for the threat. (read story)
Today, there are more than 530 counter-drone systems on the market, according to the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, with detection methods including radar, radio frequency (RF), eletro-optical and infrared imaging and acoustics. Interdiction methods are various as well, but there is little clarity among industry, government agencies and even the military what systems are most effective for various circumstances.
Here are some crucial things airport operators will need to consider with the growth of drone numbers or if you are looking into implementing a counter-drone system.
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