Chicago Department of Aviation

Assessing the Impact of Dedrone's Drone Detection Technology at O’Hare and Midway

Chicago Department of Aviation






→ Challenge

In 2021, the pilot of an Embraer 175 took off from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, reported hitting a drone and requested an immediate return to the tarmac. The incident illustrated that even one of the country’s busiest airports was dealing with a potentially serious problem. At the same time, the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) was overseeing airport construction using friendly drones.

O’Hare is on Chicago’s northwest side and away from the core urban area. Chicago also has a second, more centrally located airport, Midway International, located in the middle of the city’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood.  

Almost 96 million people traveled through either O’Hare or Midway in 2023, and both airports rank among the country’s most used. Takeoffs and landings must be carefully coordinated to ensure smooth operations. Midway’s urban location also means that if there are incidents, city traffic could be directly affected, as illustrated by a 2005 incident. Traffic through each airport is growing year over year, as is the drone market, especially for consumers.  

A drone colliding with another aircraft could be deadly. Even a small drone can create significant damage, as illustrated in a 2017 incident where a drone struck a Black Hawk helicopter. Research conducted by the University of Dayton highlighted the significant damage possible when a small drone rips through a plane’s wing.

→ Solution

To address the threat of drone incursions while enabling good drones to fly, the CDA, which oversees both O’Hare and Midway Airports, called Dedrone. Beginning with the installation of DedroneSensors at O’Hare, the CDA and Dedrone have consistently expanded both airports’ counter-drone security with the next phase expected to be completed in June 2024.  

Dedrone’s solutions offered the flexibility and scalability to address the different layouts and sizes of both airports, as well as the ability to integrate already-extant hardware like cameras into its unified command and control platform, DedroneTracker.AI. The CDA also added DedroneSensors for radio frequency-based drone detection and locating to better confirm the presence of drones in the area.

→ Result

Since 2021, Dedrone has detected over 7,000 drones in O’Hare’s warning zone and over 800 incursions into the alert zone, both of which fall into LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability) violation territory. The system has also significantly decreased false sightings.  

Heatmap showcases areas of drone activity around O’Hare airport

After a 2023 hardware expansion, O’Hare experienced a 43.7% decrease in LAANC violations between Q1 2023 and Q1 2024, despite the increase in drone usage and ownership over the same period. The situational awareness provided by one pane-of-glass system in DedroneTracker.AI allows the CDA to ensure that only friendly drones are flying near the airport and only where they should be.

Thanks to protocols developed by the CDA and Dedrone, if an incident does happen, staff at both airports can quickly respond and keep the skies safe for passenger air flight.

Customer quotation mark

We are proud of our strong presence in Chicago, especially at O’Hare and Midway airports. Our collaboration with the CDA highlights our commitment to airspace security and operational efficiency at some of the world's busiest airports. It’s rewarding to see our systems' tangible results in maintaining Chicago's safe and secure skies.

Jackson Markey, Director US Commercial Sales, Dedrone

Jackson Markey, Director US Commercial Sales, Dedrone

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