TSA at LAX tests technology to track and identify drones

LOS ANGELES — The use of recreational drones has increased over the years. Drone pilot and educator Emily Frangie said it’s because they’ve become more accessible and allow you to see the world from a new perspective.

As she flies over a local community in Orange County, Frangie knows where she can and cannot use her drone, such as near sports stadiums and controlled airspace.

“You shouldn’t fly near airports just because it’s dangerous and it’s illegal,” Frangie said.

If a drone is within 5 miles of an airport, it can disrupt operations or cause pilots to hijack or reroute their planes during takeoff or landing, says TSA Director of Federal Security at LAX Keith Jeffries.

“All of this could not just impact the safety of personnel on board the aircraft, people on the ground and the economic impact on the airline or the airport,” Jeffries said.

That’s why LAX joins Miami International Airport as the only two airports in the nation testing technology that will detect, track and identify drones entering restricted airspace. Miami has already reported thousands near the airport during their project.

According to video provided by LAX, the TSA can see the latitude, longitude and serial number of a drone entering the designated area. They can even access the live video feed, as well as find out where it took off from, where it lands, and even the location of the operator. Jeffries said it would help them contact the owner to find out why they were flying so close to the airport.

“Anytime you’re operating near the protected airspace of any airport in the country, that’s a concern. There’s a good chance you’ll get a visit from law enforcement and no one wants to. this. It’s not a game or a joke. It’s about keeping people who fly safe,” Jeffries said.

For now, he said most operators are naive, not knowing the rules. But the TSA can use this technology to flag any drones that may have bad intentions, then contact the proper authorities.

While Frangie supports the use of this technology and understands its benefits, she said viewing the live footage is an invasion of privacy and disturbing.

“They can achieve their security goals by simply following the drone pilot. They don’t need to see the live stream,” Frangie said.

The LAX TSA will continue to collect data from this test to see if it should expand to other airports nationwide.

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