A congressional hearing held at the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) William J. Hughes Technical Center (Tech Center) underlined the role advanced technology will play in helping to integrate unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the U.S. national airspace system (NAS).
In detailing the progress the agency has made on implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), FAA Deputy Administrator Michael G. Whitaker emphasized that NextGen technologies are integral to introducing UAS into the NAS.
Speaking before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, Whitaker said, ‘The agency is researching and developing a collision avoidance system specifically designed for unmanned aircraft. It's a technology called ACAS-Xu. The Tech Center will be aiding this effort by conducting flight testing.’
He added ADS-B technology ‘can help achieve collision avoidance through more precise surveillance – and separation – of both manned and unmanned aircraft in the same vicinity.’
Whitaker also reported that NAS Voice System (NVS) is another NextGen technology vital to UAS integration. According to Whitaker, ‘NVS modernizes the voice communication capabilities that we use for air traffic services. It will enable controllers to communicate with the ground pilot of an unmanned vehicle, even if that pilot is located on the other side of the country.’
The deputy administrator noted that the Tech Center – which is used for aviation research, development, testing and evaluation – will serve as a hub for test site data collection and analysis.
‘The FAA Tech Center will have a key role in helping collect, protect, analyze, integrate and validate operational and safety data that will become available from the six UAS test ranges established by the FAA,’ said Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., chairman of the aviation subcommittee. ‘This data, along with the other work, is essential for the FAA to develop the regulatory program to allow safe UAS operations in the national airspace system.’