NASA selects three teams to explore UAS challenges, solutions

WASHINGTON. NASA has given the green light to three teams of researchers who have been working on solving issues encountered when using unmanned aircraft system (UASs): The teams will move forward and officially begin formal feasibility studies of their concepts. The teams, part of NASA’s Convergent Aeronautics Solutions (CAS), are expected to work on their solutions for 24 to 30 months.

One study will explore the possibility of building a path toward safe inclusion and certification of autonomous systems in aviation; such systems rely on learning algorithms that adapt to new goals and environments. The aim of this study is to develop autonomy-enabling algorithms that are able to establish justifiable confidence in machine decisions, with the ultimate goal of certification of autonomous systems.

Another of the CAS teams will work on developing new methods and technologies to ensure that remotely piloted drones are fit to fly before each flight. The goal of this team will be verification that the aircraft is structurally and mechanically sound and that its onboard systems have not been damaged or hacked in some way. If the craft is revealed to be compromised in some way, the aircraft will ground itself.

The third team's aim is to use and communication technology to build a secure and jam-free network capable of handling the data demands of hundreds of thousands of drones flying each day.

Richard Barhydt, NASA’s acting director of the Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP), said of the teams' efforts: “Our idea is to invest a very modest amount of time and money into new technologies that are ambitious and potentially transformative. They may or may not work, but we won’t know unless we try.”

Principal investigator Natalia Alexandrov makes the pitch to a group of NASA aeronautics managers for her team’s study, ATTRACTOR, which will explore how to embed reliability into algorithms that are used over time to inform autonomous systems in aviation. Photo credits: NASA/Andrew Carlsen

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