A Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) subcommittee is developing a standard for detecting small drones around airports. These standards will help potential buyers of counter-drone or drone security systems know if the detection equipment will perform as intended and meet the set requirements
RTCA special committee is working on small drone detection standard
Last December, after being approached by several government organizations, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to help out with drone security challenges, the RTCA created a counter unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) special committee to develop new small drone detection standards.
Al Secen, Vice President of Technology and Standards with the association said in an interview, according to Aviation Today that some of the questions that will be addressed in the standards are, for instance,
“how quickly a target should be acquired, how small of a target should be detected, how it will be tracked through violent maneuvers that a typical airplane wouldn’t go through.”
Secen said that since the federal government doesn’t know if something is “good enough” or “what is bad” it is hard for government agencies like the FAA, DoD, and DHS when they are approached by a manufacturer with sensors and solutions to determine if a given solution will work.
Secen continued to say that with detection standards “all you have to do is say,
‘I’ve developed a standard against this standard and it meets the standard,’ and it sort of level sets everybody in the room. This is how it’s going to perform and this is why it’s performing this way.
The big push for developing the drone detection standard resulted from the chaos at Gatwick Airport in 2018 when hundreds of flights were canceled and hundreds of thousands of passengers got stranded.
According to Aviation Today, Secen said in an interview after the drone incident that various government agencies approached the RTCA about developing detection standards. The Gatwick drone incident had cost airlines tens of millions of dollars. And since that major disruption, drone sightings near airports have become an occasional nuisance for airport operators globally, causing flight delays, stranded passengers, and racing concerns about potentially fatal collisions with passenger aircraft.
In an interview, Max Fenkell, co-chair of the RTCA Special Committee – 238 Counter UAS, said, “We need to property detection to avoid economic loss and the travel disruptions we’ve had.”
Fenkell is the Director for Unmanned and Emerging Aviation Technologies at the Aerospace Industries Association, which is a trade association that represents the aerospace and defense industry.
Together with various stakeholders, the RTC is developing consensus standards across a wide range of aviation modernization issues. Fenkell says that the eventual drone detection standard will be “technology agnostic.” To which Secen added that, “We ensure a level playing field for everyone. The market will determine which solutions are better.”
The special committee includes a broad range of members from academia, governments, and industry including representatives from Europe. The committee has been “incredibly active” Fenkell said.
The RTCS committee works in partnership with its European counterpart EUROCAE and is putting together its first product, an Operational Services and Environmental Definitions (OSED) document, described by Secen as comparable to a concept of operations.
Ha added that the OSED will “describe the ecosystem that the standard is going to be employed. It allows people to say, I can see my application, my agency, my offering in this 0SED. I see where I fit in the overall CONOPS in this space.”
The OSED forms the foundation of the eventual standard, which the RTCA refers to as a Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS).
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Photo: London Gatwick Airport, Aviation Today