Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
NASA Looks to Manage Drone Traffic in Cities
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 5 years ago on
May 24, 2019

Share

RENO, Nev. — NASA has launched the final stage of a four-year effort to develop a national traffic management system for drones, testing them in cities for the first time beyond the operator’s line of sight as businesses look in the future to unleash the unmanned devices in droves above busy streets and buildings.

“This activity is the latest and most technical challenge we have done with unmanned aerial systems.” — David Korsmeyer, associate director of research and technology at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View

Multiple drones took to the air at the same time above downtown Reno this week in a series of simulations testing emerging technology that someday will be used to manage hundreds of thousands of small unmanned commercial aircraft delivering packages, pizzas and medical supplies.

“This activity is the latest and most technical challenge we have done with unmanned aerial systems,” said David Korsmeyer, associate director of research and technology at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

An autonomous drone took off Tuesday from the rooftop of a five-story casino parking garage and landed on the roof of another out of view across the street. It hovered as onboard sensors adjusted for gusty winds before returning close to the center of the launchpad.

Equipped with GPS, others flew at each other no higher than city streetlights but were able to avoid colliding through onboard tracking systems connected to NASA’s computers on the ground.

Similar tests have been conducted in remote and rural areas. The Federal Aviation Administration has authorized individual test flights in cities before but never for multiple drones or outside the sight of the operator.

A Crawl, Walk, Run Philosophy

The new round of tests continuing this summer in Reno and Corpus Christi, Texas, marks the first time simulations have combined all those scenarios, said Chris Walach, executive director of the Nevada Institute of Autonomous Systems, which is running the Reno tests of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

“There can be a lot of Silicon Valley mentality where people don’t want to wait. So, we’re trying to strike a balance between unleashing entrepreneurship and ensuring we’re doing it safely while trying to accelerate acceptance of drones in public.” — Ron Johnson, project manager for unmanned aircraft systems traffic management at NASA’s Ames Research Center

“When we began this project four years ago, many of us wouldn’t have thought we’d be standing here today flying UAVs with advanced drone systems off high-rise buildings,” he said.

The team adopted a “crawl, walk, run” philosophy when it initiated tests in 2015, culminating with this fourth round of simulations, said Ron Johnson, project manager for unmanned aircraft systems traffic management at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

“We are definitely in the ‘run’ phase of this development here in Reno,” he said.

The results will be shared with the FAA. The agency outlined proposed rules in January that would ease restrictions on flying drones over crowds but said it won’t take final action until it finishes another regulation on identifying drones as they’re flying — something industry analysts say could be years away.

Critics assert that the FAA has stymied the commercial use of drones by applying the same rigid safety standard it uses for airlines.

“There can be a lot of Silicon Valley mentality where people don’t want to wait. So, we’re trying to strike a balance between unleashing entrepreneurship and ensuring we’re doing it safely while trying to accelerate acceptance of drones in public,” Johnson said.

Cities Present the Biggest Challenges

Amazon and FedEx are among the companies that hope to send consumer products by drone by 2020. Drone delivery company Flirtey began testing delivery of defibrillators for cardiac arrest patients last year in Reno under FAA oversight.

Johnson said cities present the biggest challenges because of limited, small landing areas among tall buildings that create navigation and communication problems.

He said it became apparent early on that the travel management plans for drones would have to be completely automated because FAA air traffic controllers can’t handle the enormous workload.

The system is being tested with the help of 36 private partners, including drone manufacturers, operators, software developers and other third-party service providers, Johnson said.

The system uses software on the ground that communicates flight plans and positions to other software systems. The drones are equipped with programs for landing, avoiding crashes, surveillance, detection and identification, optical cameras and systems similar to radar that work with lasers.

Huy Tran, director of aeronautics at NASA’s Ames Research Center, said her supervisors at NASA headquarters were surprised to hear they had be testing drones in Reno.

“They said, ‘Are you crazy?'” she said. “We hope (the test in) Reno shows drones can be flown and land safely.”

DON'T MISS

Did Biden Do Right by Dropping Out? Valley Leaders Share Their Views

DON'T MISS

With Biden Out, Vice President Kamala Harris Has a Chance to Make History Again

DON'T MISS

‘Cold-Blooded’ Nancy Pelosi Was Key to Nudging Biden Out

DON'T MISS

Democrats Hail Biden’s Decision to Not Seek Reelection While Republicans Urge Him to Resign

DON'T MISS

Where Kamala Harris Stands on the Issues: Abortion, Immigration and More

DON'T MISS

How Will Democrats Replace Biden at the Top of the Presidential Ticket?

DON'T MISS

Tadej Pogacar Wins 3rd Tour de France in Dominating Fashion

DON'T MISS

What Happens Next: Joe Biden Wants To Pass the Baton to Kamala Harris

DON'T MISS

Pro-Lifers Helped Bring Trump to Power. Why Has He Abandoned Us?

DON'T MISS

Xander the Great! Schauffele Wins the British Open for His 2nd Major This Year

UP NEXT

911 Systems Disrupted in at Least 3 States

UP NEXT

Mourners Gather for Funeral of Man Slain at Trump Rally in Pennsylvania

UP NEXT

Widespread Technology Outage Disrupts Flights, Banks, Media Outlets and Companies Around the World

UP NEXT

Founder of Fandango Dies After Plunge From Manhattan Hotel

UP NEXT

Rally Shooter Had Photos of Trump, Biden and Other US Officials on His Phone, AP Sources Say

UP NEXT

The Last Cards Have Been Dealt as the Iconic Mirage Closes Its Doors on the Las Vegas Strip

UP NEXT

Visalia Man Faces Third Strike for Serial Burglary

UP NEXT

US Army Honors Nisei Combat Unit That Helped Liberate Tuscany From Nazi-Fascist Forces in WWII

UP NEXT

Majority of Americans, Including Republicans, Back Biden’s Supreme Court Term Limit Plan

UP NEXT

Fresno Police Arrest Suspect in 2023 Shooting Death

Democrats Hail Biden’s Decision to Not Seek Reelection While Republicans Urge Him to Resign

14 hours ago

Where Kamala Harris Stands on the Issues: Abortion, Immigration and More

15 hours ago

How Will Democrats Replace Biden at the Top of the Presidential Ticket?

15 hours ago

Tadej Pogacar Wins 3rd Tour de France in Dominating Fashion

16 hours ago

What Happens Next: Joe Biden Wants To Pass the Baton to Kamala Harris

16 hours ago

Pro-Lifers Helped Bring Trump to Power. Why Has He Abandoned Us?

16 hours ago

Xander the Great! Schauffele Wins the British Open for His 2nd Major This Year

16 hours ago

Biden Drops Out of Race, Scrambling the Campaign for the White House

16 hours ago

President Joe Biden Drops Out of the 2024 Presidential Race

17 hours ago

Protecting Domestic Wells a Key Piece of Southern Fresno County Groundwater Agency’s Planning

22 hours ago

Did Biden Do Right by Dropping Out? Valley Leaders Share Their Views

With news that President Joe Biden had dropped out of the race, leaders at the local, state, and national levels reacted — with some Republi...

14 hours ago

14 hours ago

Did Biden Do Right by Dropping Out? Valley Leaders Share Their Views

14 hours ago

With Biden Out, Vice President Kamala Harris Has a Chance to Make History Again

Photo of Nancy Pelosi
14 hours ago

‘Cold-Blooded’ Nancy Pelosi Was Key to Nudging Biden Out

14 hours ago

Democrats Hail Biden’s Decision to Not Seek Reelection While Republicans Urge Him to Resign

15 hours ago

Where Kamala Harris Stands on the Issues: Abortion, Immigration and More

15 hours ago

How Will Democrats Replace Biden at the Top of the Presidential Ticket?

16 hours ago

Tadej Pogacar Wins 3rd Tour de France in Dominating Fashion

16 hours ago

What Happens Next: Joe Biden Wants To Pass the Baton to Kamala Harris

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend