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Study: Evaluating Small UAS Near Midair Collision Risk
25 October 2018

In a recent study, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University researchers revealed results from a small drone (sUAS) detection study performed near Daytona Beach International Airport in Florida, USA.

To gather their data, the research team secured a DJI AeroScope – a passive radio-frequency sensor designed to detect, track, and record UAS activity.  During the 13-day sampling period, researchers detected 73 different DJI-manufactured drones that made 192 separate flights.

Researchers also collected valuable operator behavior data, including common sUAS flight locations, times, and altitudes.

It was found that 12 percent of all detected drones were flying near unimproved land and parks. More than three-fourths were flying in residential neighborhoods or near single-family homes. Another 21.5 percent hovered above commercial, industrial or public properties, the researchers reported.

The researchers compared detected sUAS activity with locations and altitudes prescribed by the FAA’s UAS Facility Maps.  According to the FAA, “UAS Facility Maps shows the maximum altitudes around airports where the FAA may authorize Part 107 operations without additional safety analysis.”  More than one-fifth of the 177 flights were flying higher than the safe altitude prescribed for their operating area.  Moreover, researchers compared detected UAS operations to historical manned aircraft flight data, revealing several near encounters.

The researchers suggested that drone manufacturers should more frequently incorporate a technology called “geofencing,” which would prevent sUAS from accidentally entering restricted areas. The authors also proposed that the FAA could consider making more information on sUAS activity available to aircraft pilots.