The Federal Aviation Administration has signed an agreement to test a new kind of technology that could help it find out who is operating some of the hundreds of drones that have been reported flying near airports or planes. The news comes after the FAA proposed a $1.9 million fine against a photography company for breaching airspace reserved for planes taking off and landing.
The FAA signed an agreement this week, the Verge reported Friday, to use radio-tracking equipment in an attempt to monitor the connection between a drone and the person operating it from the ground. John Mengucci, president of CACI International, the company providing the unnamed technology, said it “provides a proven way to passively detect, identify and track [drone pilots]."
The FAA has not announced when or where it plans to use the technology or discussed how much it costs.
The FAA has claimed it receives roughly 100 complaints every month from pilots who relate sightings of unmanned aerial vehicles flying close to an aircraft or airport -- which are supposed to be protected by a 5-mile, drone-free buffer zone. Part of the concern, the FAA says, is that even a small drone will be sucked into an aircraft's engine and force an emergency landing.
That frustration was most recently on display earlier this week, when the FAA threatened to fine SkyPan International -- an aerial photography company -- $1.9 million for allegedly flying 65 “unauthorized operations” from March 2012 to December 2014. If the two sides can't agree on a settlement, the next step would be for the Department of Justice to file a federal suit, which could lead to a trial.