You've Been Warned: FAA Can Detect Drones Near Airports

Drones and commercial airplanes don't mix. Remotely operated quadcopters have been known to wreak havoc on flight paths, get sucked into engines, and potentially cause life-threatening situations. That's why you can't fly them within 5 miles of an airport. Those who break that rule have been put on notice: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can now detect your drone in the sky, flying where it shouldn't.

Credit: Shutterstock

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The FAA says it can now detect drones flying near airports and find the UAV's controllers on the ground. That's thanks to defense contractor CACI, which successfully tested its SkyTracker at the Atlantic City International Airport. The technology triangulates the radio signals to let local authorities locate the operator. So far, the FAA and CACI have conducted 210 tests over five days, and it worked every time without interfering with airport operations.

MORE: Drone Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know

CACI says SkyTracker will allow law enforcement to "initiate countermeasures." What that means isn't totally clear, but according to, Congress has said that could include forcing a drone to land, return to the operator, or jam the operator's signal.

This type of technology could be applicable outside of just airports, such as forest fires, sporting events, military bases, national monuments, or anywhere else that a drone might cause a potential threat. However, SkyTracker has not been tasked with locating autonomous drones.

This is not the only type of drone detecting/deterring technology in the works. Sites such as market drone detection tech to consumers. However, jamming the signal of a quadcopter by consumers is illegal.

Last fall, the FAA reported that drone sightings by commercial pilots had quadrupled to 650 in the first nine months of 2015. In addition to a general ban on flying near airports (unless you contact the radio tower first), you can't fly drones around Washington, D.C., above 400 feet or in any emergency area, such as a wildfire or a traffic accidents. Unnmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are also banned from national parks and wildlife areas.

Anna Attkisson
Anna Attkisson is the editorial director at Tom's IT Pro. After getting infected with the tech bug at Wireless World and Cellular Business magazines as an intern in 1998, Anna Attkisson went on to dabble in a sorts of publications covering everything from children’s fashion to cars. During the last 9 years she’s returned to her roots where she’s been writing and editing for Laptop Mag and Tom’s Guide, before moving on to Tom’s IT Pro. Follow Anna Attkisson at @akattkisson.