WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, applauded today’s announcement that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has chosen Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to participate in a program to establish standards for the use of Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS) technology. The program will help test technology that can detect and mitigate the risks of unauthorized unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), otherwise known as drones, in U.S. airspace—something that has caused high-profile airport shutdowns in recent years. Sea-Tac is one of five airports chosen for the program.
“The integration of drones requires a balanced system between safety of the skies, which we cannot and will not compromise, and the many possibilities of unmanned systems – from fighting wildfires to infrastructure inspections to package delivery,” Senator Cantwell said. “This program at Sea-Tac will test innovative technologies, provide data on risk mitigation, and ensure that safety remains the top priority at our airports and within our national airspace.”
Authorized in 2018 legislation, the program will help the FAA develop a plan for permitting and allowing the use of technology to detect and mitigate unauthorized drone operation in the National Airspace System (NAS). FAA recently finalized a rule on the development and implementation of remote identification technology, a critical step to integrate drones and all their potential applications into the existing U.S. airspace system. Sea-Tac has a long history of working with the FAA to promote and harness innovation, participating in the research program that resulted in the development of airport avian radar system and taking part in the agency’s efforts to update airport foreign object debris management policies.
Senator Cantwell has long been a congressional leader on advocating for the responsible use of drones and calling out their risks when not used properly. In 2015, she warned of the risks unlicensed hobby drones posed to firefighting efforts and called on federal agencies to work together to protect air crews and firefighters. At the same time, she has been a strong advocate for the use of the technology to help firefighters, securing a commitment from former Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to deploy drones to fight fires in 2018. In 2019, President Trump signed Cantwell’s bipartisan legislation to bring state-of-the-art technology, including drones, to wildland firefighters around the country into law.