GUEST WORDS--Another week, another drone scare at LAX. Last week, a drone came within 200 feet of a plane that was preparing to land. Airports must do something now before a serious tragedy happens.
With Brussels at the forefront of our minds, and last week's drone incident, AAAPO calls for drone protection at airports is more pronounced. Drones are common, inexpensive and low-tech but have the ability to carry payloads of all kinds from biological, nuclear and radiological materials to explosives, which can be dropped onto an airport, detonated or crashed into a plane without leaving a trace of who the drone operator or assailant is.
It is incumbent on airports and the FAA to roll out drone detection and mitigation systems that place control in the hands of airports and airport police (not drone operators or manufacturers) and can detect a drone, identify the operator and mitigate the threat.
The FAA has already tested a proven drone detection system earlier this year that identifies a drone and determines the location of the ground operator. Detection of the ground operator is an important component as it provides law enforcement the ability to determine the motivation of the drone operator and stop future threats, as well as serving as a strong deterrent to those seeking to inflict harm and cause damage.
Further, there is pending federal legislation supporting the rollout of drone detection technology to airports. AAAPO supports these efforts and encourages airports to aggressively seek out drone detection and mitigation capabilities.
"LAX is ground zero for drone sightings but this is not a distinction we want," said Marshall McClain, co-founder of the AAAPO and President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association. "Drones can be used for good and bad-but either way they are here and it is only a matter of time before a plane is brought down either intentionally or unintentionally. Let's get bureaucracy out of the way and do something."
"The New York and New Jersey area airports have seen their fair share of close calls with drones," said Paul Nunziato, co-founder of the AAAPO and President of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Benevolent Association. "We can't keep holding our breath and hoping for the best. Drones are here to stay so we need to act now to protect our airports and the traveling public before something crazy happens."
(The American Alliance of Airport Police Officers (AAAPO) is comprised of rank-and-file airport police officers (including many dual police/aircraft rescue firefighters) who stand as the first line of defense against terrorist attacks, hijackings and other criminal activity at our nation's airports. For more information on LAAPOA, please visit laapoa.com)