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NASA to Test Drone Traffic Management in Nevada and Texas

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【Summary】In order to streamline the trials, NASA has partnered with two key organizations: the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems in Las Vegas and the Lone Star UAS Center for Excellence & Innovation.

Michael Cheng    Feb 23, 2019 7:00 AM PT
NASA to Test Drone Traffic Management in Nevada and Texas

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is in the process of completing a four-year project involving complex demonstrations with drones. The final phase of the project focuses on aerial traffic management, which requires the aerospace agency to demonstrate various quadcopter-related technologies in urban testing sites.

NASA and its partners will conduct trials later this year in Nevada (downtown Reno, between March and June) and Texas (Corpus Christi, between July and August). If successful, the demonstrations could help businesses interested in utilizing quadcopters for commercial purposes better understand the challenges associated with operating compact aircrafts in busy cities.

Partners and Testing Sites

In order to streamline the trials, NASA has partnered with two key organizations in the local areas. In Nevada, the selected organization is the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems. Founded by the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development and with headquarters in Las Vegas, the non-profit group hosts cutting-edge facilities for drone research, awareness and education.

Interestingly, according to Business Facilities' 14th Annual Rankings: State Rankings Report, Nevada ranks second in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) within the country. New York currently takes the top spot in the report, due to contributions and infrastructure that caters to Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) research.

"This phase represents the most complicated demonstration of advanced UAS operating in a demanding urban environment that will have been tested to date," said Ronald Johnson, Manager at NASA's UAS Traffic Management project.

"We are pleased at the plans by our partners in Nevada and Texas to conduct flight tests in a true urban environment with the support of the City of Reno and the City of Corpus Christi."

In Texas, the Lone Star UAS Center for Excellence & Innovation will assist NASA during the urban trials. The testing site specializes in drone integration with national airspaces, as well as meeting stringent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards and certification for quadcopters.

From a compliance perspective, the strategic decision to partner with the organization could help shine light on regulatory hurdles surrounding deployment of commercial drones. It is also important to highlight that the FAA is one of NASA's leading partners in drone research.

Drone Traffic Management

NASA aims to test a wide range of drone technologies for urban locations at the sites. The scope of the trials will involve the following, based on the agency's official announcement: airspace regulator Flight Information Management System, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, collision avoidance, automated safe landing protocols, the UAS Service Supplier interface for independent UAS traffic management service providers and more.

The group will also test interface with vehicle integrated detect-and-avoid (DAA) features. This aspect of the trials is vital to safety, as it leverages DAA sensors closely monitored by a ground-based control station to reduce conflicts with other aircrafts in the area.

"We are very excited to partner with NASA on such an important program that will have a significant innovative impact on the global UAS Industry," said Chris Walach, Senior Director at the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems in Las Vegas.

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