After drone sightings and even reports of a man flying in a jetpack around Los Angeles International Airport, the federal government is rolling out new tech that could better detect objects entering restricted airspace.
The project, called the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Bed Program, is the second of its kind nationwide and will begin testing technology designed to detect, track and identify drones entering the airspace of LAX.
"If a drone was to enter the space as you see with the aircraft taking off and landing, and a pilot having to make a quick decision and divert from that flight path that he or she is on -- that could be a huge issue for both the safety of the passengers, the safety of the folks on the ground, it just creates all types of challenges," Keith Jefferies, the federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration at LAX, told ABC-owned station KABC.
Since 2021, TSA has reported 90 visual sightings of drones and 5,200 technical detections within three miles of the perimeter at LAX. This year alone there have been approximately 38 drones visually detected at the airport – including a drone that was reported within 700 feet of an aircraft just before Super Bowl LVI.
Moreover, several pilots landing at LAX have reported sightings of a man flying at high altitudes around aircraft at the airport. While law enforcement later said the sightings could have been a life-sized balloon, the agency believes the new tech would be able to detect such objects.
The agency noted that the data collected at LAX will help expand the program to other airports as well as raise awareness of the risks of encroaching on restricted airspace.
"One of the main objectives of the TSA UAS Test Bed Program is to continuously assess relevant technologies and keep pace with the ever-evolving capabilities within the UAS community," TSA’s UAS Capability Manager Jim Bamberger said. "Working together with our federal, state and local partners and the intelligence community, we are leveraging our collective technical capabilities to prevent disruptions within the transportation sector."