COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – They can be fun toys and great gifts, but with the use of drones skyrocketing among Americans, aviation leaders are warning about the possible threats they pose to aircraft.
With nearly 1 million drones of all sizes in operation across the United States, a new, groundbreaking research program at Rickenbacker International Airport is working to make it safer when you take to the skies.
“Drones are a national phenomenon, right?” said Charles Goodwin, director for Airport Operation at Columbus Regional Airport Authority. “So, they’re everywhere right now.”
But these drones aren’t used for fun and games.
“We felt like it was important for us to be as knowledgeable as we can be about the programs and the safety risks that are posed by those drones,” Goodwin said.
Rickenbacker International is one of just five airports across the United States taking part in the program.
“Our goal is to keep the public unfamiliar with those types of risks by preventing them in the first place,” Goodwin said.
Rickenbacker was selected by the FAA as a research site to explore new systems related to drone detection and airspace interference, with the goal of making airports safer for aircraft and their passengers.
“It’s really them exploring the different technologies that will be compatible with the airport environment and making sure the airport environment is compatible with those technologies,” Goodwin said.
Testing of the program started Monday, and over the next several months, researchers will fly a variety of drones at different locations around Rickenbacker.
“Because of the altitude these drones can fly at, we want to make sure they stay compliant,” Goodwin said. “And they are difficult to see, quite frankly, when you’re in the air. There’s a lot of background interference, there’s the topography, there’s weather.”
Officials said the public may see drones flying near Rickenbacker in the coming months, but it’s all about helping a new, national standard for the FAA to follow.
“We want them to know that they’re sanctions and supported by the airport authority and doing things to help keep the airspace safe,” Goodwin said.
The program will last approximately one year, with monthly research and data collection, though the FAA and airport officials said there will be no disruption to airport operations during that time.