National Safe Skies Alliance Contracts Woolpert for Drone Threats Guidebook for Airports

The National Safe Skies Alliance, through its Program for Applied Research in Airport Security (PARAS), has contracted with Woolpert to develop a guidebook to assist airports in working collaboratively to plan for and respond to unmanned aircraft system (UAS) threats. According to the project’s RFP, federal agencies and the U.S. Congress have identified UAS to be a major concern at airports, and little guidance exists regarding response protocols.

Safe Skies is a nonprofit organization that works with airports, government and industry to maintain a safe and effective aviation security system. Funding for Safe Skies programs is provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Woolpert is under multiple contracts to provide ongoing research regarding UAS and is represented on the Transportation Research Board’s inaugural Standing Committee on New Users of Shared Airspace, which focuses on UAS.

Under this contract, Woolpert will develop strategies for planning, identification and threat assessment, response and recovery. The firm will address detection system considerations and legal, public policy and regulatory considerations; provide relevant examples and case studies; and prepare a plan for community awareness and prevention. As part of its research process, Woolpert has formed an advisory board to provide additional perspective.

Woolpert Aviation Project Manager and Principal Investigator Zachary Shuman said the firm will conduct a literature and data review, including engagements with stakeholders throughout the airport community. These processes will involve the advisory board and the PARAS project panel overseeing the research. The project panel includes representation from airport operators, airport law enforcement, the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration. Varying sizes and types of airports will be incorporated into the review to ensure the guidance is usable for all airports.

“UAS present a very real incursion threat for airports and introduce multiple unknowns into the airport environment,” Shuman said. “This guidebook needs to be innovative and detailed, providing a consistent framework for airports to immediately, safely and effectively respond to UAS threats, and to work with local law enforcement to clearly define how to plan and identify these threats.”

The production of this guidebook is already underway and will be completed in 2021.

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