In Coordination with NASA, FAA Test Sites to Simultaneously Fly 24 Drones

In a test of its unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) traffic management (UTM) research platform, NASA is organizing 24 simultaneous UAS flights, which will take place at the six Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) test sites around the U.S.

Participating UAS operators at the sites will enter their planned flight operations, and the UTM research platform will check for conflicts, accept or reject the flight plans, and notify the users.

The flights are scheduled for April 19, with backup dates on April 20 and 21. Because UAS are susceptible to winds, NASA engineers checked weather reports on Friday, April 15, and determined that on April 19, five of the six FAA test sites will have appropriate weather conditions. The flight window is 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. CDT. They will likely fly no earlier than 10 a.m. CDT.

Once NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., gives the go-ahead, each FAA test site will begin flight operations and interactions with the UTM research platform. Engineers at Ames will monitor the flights remotely using UTM.

Each location will fly up to four drones; the minimum success criteria is 16 drones.

The six FAA test sites will fly UAS in the following areas: Fairbanks, Alaska; Grand Forks, N.D.; Reno, Nev.; Rome, N.Y.; Blacksburg, Va.; Bushwood, Md.; and, if weather permits, Corpus Christi, Texas.

According to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Lone Star UAS Center, the tests boast several firsts:

  • First multi-site test of NASA’s UTM research platform;
  • First coordinated test across all six FAA test sites;
  • Most simultaneous, live UAS flights under the UTM research platform;
  • First UTM demonstration with live flights and simulated flights in the same scenario;
  • First demonstration of several independent UTM research client implementations; and
  • First live use of NASA-developed UTM displays and apps at each test site.

The purpose of this test is for operators outside NASA from all six FAA test sites to interact with the UTM research platform at geographically diverse locations by using various aircraft and different software clients to test rural, within-line-of-sight UAS. In turn, NASA, in collaboration with the FAA, can obtain information to further refine and develop the research.


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