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NASA Testing ‘Out of Sight’ Drone Operations at Nevada Airport

NASA Testing ‘Out of Sight’ Drone Operations at Nevada Airport Homeland Security TodayThe Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) achieved a major milestone in August with the release of operational rules for the routine use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). However, the prohibition against “out of sight” operations of UAS has sparked significant controversy from the commercial drone industry.

To test the safe “out of sight” use of drones, a team from NASA’s Ames Research Center on October 19 led “out of sight” tests in collaboration with the FAA and other partners at Reno-Stead Airport in Reno, Nevada.

During the tests, NASA flew four drones using the NASA-developed UTM research platform to test how they could be safely operated without endangering other aircraft. Over the past several years, pilots have reported a surge in the number of near misses between drones and aircraft.

The UTM research platform gave the pilots access to information about the drones’ locations and proximity to other air traffic and hazards. Observers carefully watched each vehicle to ensure safe operations, especially when drones were out of sight of the pilots.

“We are very happy with the test,” said Dr. Parimal Kopardekar, manager of NASA’s Safe Autonomous Systems Operations project and senior engineer for Air Transportation Systems at Ames. “We have completed all our test goals, in terms of the number of scenarios and data collection toward operations beyond visual line of sight. The test was possible due to a very good collaboration among partners and NASA.”

October’s demonstration achieved many firsts:

  • First UTM demonstration of multiple drones flying and landing beyond visual line-of-sight of the pilot.
  • First demonstration of system detect-and-alert capabilities.
  • First demonstration of dynamic re-routing capability that allows an unmanned airborne vehicle to request flight plan changes.
  • First demonstration of automated alert when aircraft are not conforming to their flight plans.
  • First demonstration of prioritizing airspace access for emergency response drones through UTM airspace management combined with notification to other UAS operators to clear the area to allow emergency responders access.

Collaborators for the October tests included: Aerovironment, Inc., Monrovia, California; Alaska Center of UAS Integration, Fairbanks, Alaska; Drone Co-Habitation Services, Wilmington, Delaware; Gryphon Sensors, Syracuse, New York; Lone Star UAS Center, Corpus Christi, Texas; Modern Technology Solutions Inc., Alexandria, Virginia; Nevada Institute of Autonomous Systems, Reno, Nevada; Precision Hawk, Raleigh, North Carolina; Proxy Technologies, Reston, Virginia; Silent Falcon, Albuquerque, New Mexico; SmartC2, Grand Forks, North Dakota; University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, Nevada, and Unmanned Experts, Denver, Colorado.

“The NASA UTM program is groundbreaking and we are excited to be part of the effort,” said Mark Barker, director of Business Development at Nevada Institute of Autonomous Systems (NIAS), which is responsible for the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site. “NASA, NIAS and all the Nevada Teammates are truly advancing the unmanned systems industry.”

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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