UAS Integration at Airports

UAS Integration at Airports 

sUAS for On-Airport Applications

ATR is collaborating with FAA’s Office of Airports to integrate small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) safely and effectively into the airport environment. Integrating sUAS has the potential to enhance cost effectiveness and operational efficiency.

Thanks to recent technological advancements, sUAS are now suitable for a range of airport applications. ATR’s work focuses on five core applications critical to aircraft and passenger safety:


Icon shows drone conducting obstruction survey

  1. Obstruction surveys
  • ATR is exploring ways sUAS can help identify obstacles that penetrate airport imaginary surfaces.
  • sUAS obstruction surveys can potentially produce critical information (e.g., the locations and heights of obstacles) faster and in far greater detail than ground-based surveys, at a lower cost.
  • ATR has completed testing at 5 airports for this research effort. 
  • ATR is collaborating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Geodetic Survey (NGS) for this work.

Icon shows drone scanning airfield pavement

  1. Airfield pavement inspections

  • ATR is researching the use of sUAS and advanced sensor technologies to increase efficiency and gather more comprehensive pavement condition data.
  • High-resolution, geo-referenced imagery of airport pavement surfaces can be captured and used to identify signs of aging and distress.
  • ATR has completed testing at 8 airports for this research effort.


Icon shows drone detecting birds in the sky

  1. Wildlife hazard management

  • ATR is researching types of sUAS platforms and sensors to be used for wildlife dispersal, and wildlife activity monitoring around airports.
  • ATR is working alongside the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Wildlife Services.




Icon shows drone detecting fence during perimeter security

  1. Perimeter security
  • This sUAS application aims to improve perimeter airfield fence inspections. sUAS allow inspectors to efficiently examine areas that are difficult to reach by foot or in ground vehicles.
  • ATR is researching the use of sUAS and various sensor technologies to inspect perimeter fence lines and detect possible intruders.
  • ATR has completed testing at 4 airports for this research effort. 


Icon shows a fire truck and a drone detecting fire

  1. Aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF)
  • ATR conducted a research effort to explore the use of sUAS to improve situational awareness and visibility of ARFF personnel when responding to an incident or accident. Click here to read the final report from this research effort.
  • ATR conducted testing efforts at two airports.
  • ATR is also in the process of testing the use of UAS for documenting an incident or accident scene.



ATR will continue collaborating with airport operators, vendors, and other stakeholders to assess best practices, generate concepts of operation for these applications, and conduct research to inform related FAA guidance documentation.


Learn more