Blazing a trail for safely integrating drones into the national airspace, a team from NASA’s Ames Research Center on Oct. 19 flew four uncrewed aircraft – commonly called drones – at Reno-Stead Airport in Reno, Nevada. The “out of sight” tests, led by NASA in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration and several partners, were the latest waypoint in solving the challenge of drones flying beyond the visual line of sight of their human operators without endangering other aircraft. They were part of NASA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) traffic management (UTM) research platform, led by Dr. Parimal Kopardekar, manager of NASA’s Safe Autonomous Systems Operations project and senior engineer for Air Transportation Systems at Ames.
NASA is with you when you fly, committed to transforming aviation by reducing its environmental impact, maintaining safety, and revolutionizing aircraft shapes and propulsion. Every U.S. aircraft and U.S. air traffic control tower has NASA-developed technology on board. Ames Research Center originally was part of NASA’s precursor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which shaped the first 100 years of aviation in America.
During the test, two of the drones flew beyond their commanders’ lines of sight. As many as two drones were operated in the same test airspace, separated by altitude and within sight of their operators. The pilots used the NASA-developed UTM research platform to gain information about all the drones’ locations and proximity to other air traffic and hazards. UTM also informed other airspace users of potential hazards and conflicting operations that could affect their plans.