DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, together with the project partners Fraport AG and Flughafen München GmbH, successfully completed a large-scale test to test drone detection systems at the two busiest airports in Germany.
It was tested whether drones can be detected, among other things, at a distance of ten nautical miles (18 kilometers) along the approach and departure routes of the aircraft. Because of their small size, drones are hardly recognizable to conventional radar systems. In order to safely integrate unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAS) into the airspace, not only authorized drones must be detected, but also so-called "uncooperative" drones that are not visible or identifiable to air traffic control and pose a threat to air traffic at and around airports. "A functioning drone detection is the basis for the DFS to maintain safety in flight operations and for the police authorities to be able to initiate effective countermeasures," it says in the broadcast.
"Different runway layouts, topographies, building structures and the surrounding vegetation make every airport unique," says Angela Kies, head of the unmanned aerial vehicle systems department at DFS and DDS project manager. In addition, the detection systems must be able to distinguish drones from other moving objects such as vehicles, birds or helicopters that are in use at airports. And the systems must be able to differentiate between a large number of drones that are available on the market in various sizes and shapes. Drones of various types were therefore used in the test flights: from agile micro-drones to larger multi-rotor systems with a higher load capacity to fixed-wing drones that can reach speeds of more than 140 kilometers per hour.
A key result of the test project: there is no universal solution that can be implemented equally at all airports. The solution will be a mixture of different sensor technologies which, with their individual strengths, compensate for their respective weaknesses. The detailed results of the tests are currently being processed. They are to be made available to the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure by the end of this year together with information on how to determine suitable detection solutions for the 16 international airports in Germany. In 2021, DFS will initiate a process to select a suitable technology.