As drones become a more common sight overhead, the government has started to think more and more about how to protect the skies. At CES 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that it is researching new ways to detect and defend against drones.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta took to the stage in Las Vegas to discuss new technologies designed to spot unauthorized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operating near important areas, with an emphasis on airports. 

According to Huerta, the organization has already tested some of its systems in busy airports in New York and Denver and smaller locales like Atlantic City. Later this year, the FAA plans to extend it tests at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Data and observations gathered during the testing period will be utilized to draft recommendations for policies and guidelines that will eventually help to inform airports across the nation who may consider installing drone defense systems.

The emphasis on airports is of particular interest to the FAA as pilots have reported a rapid increase in drone sightings. A report issued by the administration in March 2016 noted sightings had "increased dramatically since 2014." Those numbers have continued to rise, Heurta revealed at CES, with about 1,800 reported sightings in 2016 compared to 1,200 in 2015.

That number will likely continue to rise as drones continue to become a more permanent feature in the skies.

In August of 2016, the FAA set into effect its new rules regulating UAVs that requires drones weighing over 0.55 pounds to be registered with the organization. The rules also opened up the possibility for commercial drone usage.

Since the regulations were implemented, more than 30,000 people have applied to become certified drone pilots. Over half of those registered took the required exam, with 90 percent of them passing, according to Huerta.

In total, the FAA has registered more than 670,000 drone operators—including an influx of 37,000 new registrants in the final two weeks of December. A forecast published by the FAA projected a total of 7 million drones sold in the U.S. by 2020.

For the FAA, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to integrate those flying vehicles into the skies. The regulatory body plans to create regulations for allowing drone operations to take place over the head of uninvolved people.

The FAA Drone Advisory Council has been considering the policy for some time, but has yet to finalize any rules regarding overhead usage. 

Joel Roberson, a partner at Holland and Knight and part of the law firm's public policy and regulation practice group, told IBTimes that he expects the FAA might create categories of use for drones that would allow for limited operating use. 

"While the FAA would like to make the drone flights over people rule as flexible as possible, the current state of safety science will only support minimal operations over people," Roberson said.

According to Roberson, the initial policy that will eventually be implemented by the FAA will likely be limited but will allow the organization and other industry players to better research safety cases and make final rules more flexible.

The FAA is also exploring possible uses that would allow drones to fly beyond the visual line of sight of the operator. Allowing such usage would be a necessity for commercial drone delivery systems like those that Amazon has proposed. The ecommerce company is already testing such deliveries in the United Kingdom.