NASA, partners test next phase of UAV traffic-management system

RENO-STEAD TEST RANGE, Nev. NASA and several aviation and industry partners report that they recently conducted successful tests of five different unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) demonstrating multiple operational scenarios, including parachute-initiated emergency supply deliveries and aerial survey operations.

In addition to flying the specific Traffic Management (UTM) missions, the UAVs were also tested by flying beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight, which was done using strategically placed visual observers and updated command and control (C2), communication, detect, and avoid technologies.

These /industry UTM tests-- done collaboratively with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) -- are evaluating the newest version of its UTM technologies using live, remotely-operated aircraft, or drones, at six different UAS Test Sites around the nation. The UTM National Campaign is focused on flying small drones beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight over sparsely populated areas near six of the FAA test sites. The partners also tested UAS traffic mapping, sensor readings, and technology, all of which were connected through a NASA UAS Service Supplier network to NASA's Ames Research Center in California.

Chris Walach, director of the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site, said that the beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) missions were completed at over a distance of 13 miles north of Reno, Nevada, while the multiple aerial parachute package delivery missions performed were the first to be done in the National Airspace System (NAS) under the NASA UTM.

Several more testing phases, each progressively more complex and involving flying drones with specific tasks over increasingly populated areas, are scheduled for 2018 and beyond.

Emergency package drop from UAS during NASA UTM test. Image courtesy of Drone America/Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems.

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