The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 was signed into law on October 5th, granting the federal government the power to mitigate drones “identified as high-risk and a potential target for unlawful unmanned aircraft activity.” That was over five months ago, though today there is little semblance of a plan for how those powers will be carried out.
This is concerning. Venezuela, Gatwick, and other global examples have shown that illicit and errant drones can cause physical harm and collateral damage. There is little doubt across industry leaders, regulators, and government officials that the United States should be prepared to utilize an effective counter-drone system when (not if) it’s needed.
Last week acting FAA administrator Dan Elwell clarified his stance, saying “there have been proposals in the past and discussions about the FAA being responsible not only for detection of drones but mitigating drones around airports...and I will tell you, as long as I’m working at the FAA, I’m frankly gonna fight to not have FAA take things out of the sky.”
Elwell’s remarks sparked confusion. Though the FAA has consistently asserted their focus is safety, not security, the industry has expected them to act since the Reauthorization became law.
However it plays out, it’s certain that if the FAA decides their role sooner than later, it'll be better for all of us.
As security and intelligence SME Travis Moran wrote in his response to Elwell’s statement, it’s up to both the government and the private sector to activate the solution: “there are simply too many problems to solve to hope that somehow government can or will do it all in a timely manner.”
October was an important domino to fall. Now it’s time for key stakeholders to begin testing, evaluating, and developing operational SOPs to ensure counter-drone systems can be used effectively when the time comes.
Russ Butler, Vice President of Security for the San Francisco 49ers and Levi’s Stadium, delivered the closing keynote presentation on Day 2 of ISC West in Las Vegas last week, the largest security event in the US. Butler, who’s from England and brings decades of international security experience to the 49ers organization, detailed his perspective on the past, present, and future of stadium security.