A team of engineers from NASA, Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, flew four unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also commonly called drones, beyond the operator’s visual line of sight during a flight test at Reno-Stead Airport in Reno, Nevada.
The tests were part of NASA’s UAS traffic management (UTM) research platform, with the goal of safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system (NAS), led by Parimal Kopardekar, manager of NASA’s Safe Autonomous Systems Operations project.
The “out of sight” tests, led by NASA in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and several partners, were the latest waypoint in solving the challenge of drones flying beyond the line of sight (BLOS) of human operators without endangering other aircraft, officials describe.
Drone Co-habitation Services operates a Phantom 3 commercial multi-rotor unmanned aircraft, one of 11 vehicles in the UTM TCL2 demonstration that will fly beyond line of sight of the pilot in command in Nevada test. (Credits: NASA Ames / Dominic Hart)
During the BLOS flight test, two drones flew beyond their commanders’ lines of sight. As many as two drones were operated in the same test airspace, separated by altitude and within sight of their operators. The pilots used the NASA-developed UTM research platform to gain information about all the drones’ locations and proximity to other air traffic and hazards. UTM also informed other airspace users of potential hazards and conflicting operations that could affect their plans.
Before multiple drones can fly in the same area, beyond the pilots’ view, procedures need to be in place to safely manage the traffic. Operators must be aware of other aircraft around them, no-fly zones (also known as geo-fenced areas), and man-made and natural hazards, such as severe weather or unanticipated events in the area.
During testing, NASA engineers demonstrated UTM’s Technical Capability Level 2 (TCL2) by connecting real drone-tracking systems to the research platform, providing alerts for approaching drones and piloted aircraft (live or simulated), as well as providing information about weather and other hazards. UTM partners used various unmanned aircraft connected to the research platform to test UAS operations, enabling engineers from NASA and the FAA to refine and develop the research.Read more…