Drones and airports don’t usually mix. In fact, most airport officials are working on ways to keep drones away. For Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, however, survey drones are improving a multi-billion project from above.
Earlier this month, officials announced that ATL, the world’s busiest airport, received FAA certification to fly an Intel Falcon 8 UAS drone across Class B airspace to survey runway pavement for possible damage or other maintenance needs as well as future renovations. On March 17, the flight took place and officials stated the results were positive.
The survey data will provide accurate data for the airports $6 billion construction project which will include runway maintenance and reconstruction of airport garages.
The mission was the second this year. In January, a joint effort by 3DR and Autodesk launched a survey mission (pictured above) over 40 acres of ATL to include seven flights capturing more than 700 images, according to a 3DR press release. The images will be used as a guide for the demolition of several older buildings and 3D point clouds can be used by architects for preliminary design work of the new facilities.
“Because the site was in the controlled airspace of an international airport, the 3DR team used the new FAA online portal to obtain the authorization for the flight,” stated 3DR Senior Product Manager Kevin Sartori
“As part of the airspace authorization process, 3DR and Atkins [the project contractor] were able to demonstrate to the FAA that an operation in such a critical location between runways could be performed safely using Site Scan, 3DR’s autonomous aerial data capture platform. After coordinating with the ATL air traffic control tower, the FAA granted airspace authorization enabling this aerial data capture on Atkins’ construction site.”
Although survey drones may soon be a more common site at American airports, reports (often false) of near collisions with jets will likely fuel stronger anti-drone strategies by federal officials.
Last year, the FAA tasked drone-mitigation firms such as Blighter Surveillance Systems, Chess Dynamics and Enterprise Control Systems to join a new drone-defense program in partnership with American company Liteye Systems under the title Anti-UAV Defense System. Dubbed “the world’s first fully integrated detect-track-disrupt-defeat” drone defense system, the consortium is one piece of the FAA’s Pathfinder Initiative which is designed, the agency says, to address specific areas of national drone integration.