In collaboration with NASA, each of the six Federal Aviation Administration unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites recently participated in the largest test yet of NASA’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) traffic management (UTM) research platform.
The test included up to 24 UAS that were remotely flown simultaneously at the sites in Texas, Alaska, North Dakota, Nevada, New York and Virginia. (The Virginia site also had UAS launches in Maryland.)
In Texas, at Port Mansfield, about two hours south of Corpus Christi, four UAS took flight at 11 a.m. Three quadcopters and one small, fixed-wing drone launched and landed at the regional airport.
“We had a series of operational flights at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.,” says Jerry Hendrix, executive director of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Lone Star UAS Center of Innovation and Excellence. “All four times we did have aircraft in the air, and we had a report that there were 22 in the air simultaneously, so we consider it a success.”
The purpose of this test was for operators from all six sites to interact with the UTM research platform at geographically diverse locations by using various aircraft and software clients to test rural, within line-of-sight UAS operations. In turn, NASA, in collaboration with the FAA, can obtain information to further refine and develop the research.
According to Texas A&M, the project boasts the following 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 Lone Star UAS Center and the other sites will participate in another similarly coordinated mission in October in Nevada to further test NASA’s research platform as it continues to develop.