NASA Boosts Urban Drone Operations Research With NextNav 3D Geolocation Tech


NextNav, a provider of 3D geolocation services, says its Metropolitan Beacon System (MBS) has been accepted for use by NASA, which will use the MBS network as part of its CERTAIN (City Environment for Range Testing of Autonomous Integrated Navigation) facilities at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

CERTAIN supports, among other programs, Urban Air Mobility, an air transportation system with myriad applications, including small package-delivery drones and passenger-carrying air taxis.

NextNav’s MBS system facilitates urban drone operations where satellite-based GPS signals may not be available. NextNav explains that the need to reliably know a drone’s location horizontally and vertically is critical to ensure safe operations in urban air traffic corridors.

“NextNav’s MBS system provides us with new tools for the development of navigation systems in environments where GPS has traditionally been challenged,” says Evan Dill of the Safety-Critical Avionics Systems Branch of NASA. “We’re looking forward to working with MBS as we develop new approaches to the operation of unmanned systems in urban environments.”

NextNav’s wide-area terrestrial positioning network provides accurate and secure location services – critical for unmanned aircraft navigation. In addition, MBS complements and integrates with GPS and provides a level of georedundancy, ensuring a safe and efficient system for future air transportation in urban areas, the company says.

“We are proud to work with NASA and integrate MBS into its urban drone operations,” notes Ganesh Pattabiraman, co-founder and CEO of NextNav. “The MBS system is designed for secure, reliable and consistent 3D geolocation capabilities, which are important for autonomous systems such as drones. NASA’s acquisition of the MBS system is an exciting milestone for MBS technology and a great partnership with NASA to address the key challenges in urban drone navigation and make it possible to explore new opportunities in unmanned operations.”

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