Miami International Airport is the first airport in the U.S. to get the technology that can spot drones coming near the airport and, in the future, take action to bring them down.
On Tuesday, the Transportation Security Administration, MIA, and Congressman Carlos Gimenez officially kicked off a program to test technology that can locate drones coming into MIA’s airspace. Drone operators are supposed to stay at least five miles away, but many times don’t.
Jim Barnberger is the TSA’s Counter Drone Manager, the expert when it comes to keeping drones out of places they should not be flying. In an auditorium out of sight of passengers, Bamberger sent a message to those piloting drones, officially called unmanned aerial systems.
“If you follow the rules and operate your drone in the areas you are authorized to operate, you’re not a concern of ours. If you don’t, even if you are careless, or clueless, you’re still unauthorized to operate in an area that’s restricted and has to be dealt with,” Bamberger said.
Striking a drone could cause a disaster for a commercial aircraft — hitting anything at 200 knots is a major danger. A host of cameras, sensors, and detection devices are able to track down not only where the drone is flying, but where it’s being controlled from.
“Miami is about being number one, and that’s what we want to do. We want to be on the cutting edge not only in the passenger experience but also in security,” said Ralph Cutie, MIA’s Interim Airport Director.
The passengers at MIA may not care about all this high technology. However, Gimenez says at the end of the day, it’s about keeping flights safe, as well as the airport and its perimeter safe, too.
“It’s is something that has concerned me for some time,” Gimenez said. “This is the first to making sure that drones do not pose a threat to air safety and we need to identify them, track them at this point.”
Gimenez has been instrumental in getting funding and backing the program since joining Congress and is on the committee that oversees this area of transportation.
TSA and MIA say they’ll be vigilant to careless drone pilots and to those like Rolando Yague, who pled not guilty after he was accused of pointing lasers at flights above his Miami-Dade home.
“We do find those careless operators out there that are flying their drone into restricted airspace, then we can work with the Miami-Dade Police and other authorities to intercept that operator on the ground,” said Daniel Ronan, the TSA Federal Security Director.
Later, MIA will start seeing if they are able to force a drone out of the sky when experts determine if the operator has dangerous intentions.