Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno are now working with NASA on a low-altitude traffic management system for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
The university says it is one of a handful of organizations participating in the first phase of the NASA Ames UAS Traffic Management project to enable safer use of low-altitude airspace (500 feet and below).
The university is developing the software that will serve as the communications bridge between an unmanned autonomous vehicle and NASA’s traffic management system, which includes airspace design, corridors, dynamic geofencing, severe weather and wind avoidance, congestion management, terrain avoidance, route planning and re-routing.
Flirtey and Drone America will be flying their delivery drone platforms at NASA’s Unmanned Traffic Management system test this month in Nevada and California.
The Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center (NAASIC) is coordinating the industry/university partnership and will be working with Flirtey and Drone America in the coming months and years to test this software. The tests will happen officially under NASA’s supervision at a location over which they have airspace management authority. The NASA project with the university is managed under a Space Act agreement.
Richard Kelley, an assistant professor, computer scientist and chief engineer for NAASIC, is the lead scientist developing the software.
“We’ll need to devise a system to make vehicles autonomously aware of each other so they can avoid each other, as well as a system to create traffic patterns or navigation protocols that would keep aircraft away from each other in the first place,” Kelley explains.
According to the university, Kelley is the first of many NASA partners to complete the task of integrating software with the NASA system. Now, he can begin real-time development and testing of traffic control systems. The software will connect autonomous vehicles with the NASA servers to conduct simulations.
“Figuring out how to safely enable low-altitude UAS operations is essential for the future of unmanned flight in the United States,” Kelley adds. “NASA’s UTM project is a key enabler of that future, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Photo courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno: Kelley demonstrates for a group of visitors a quadcopter being used to locate hazardous waste at an EPA clean-up site.