NASA develops first-ever drone air traffic management system

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Parimal Kopardekar, 2018 Sammies finalist and senior technologist for Air Transportation Systems at NASA Ames Research Center, discusses the work he and his team have done on developing air traffic control systems for drones.


As drone systems become smaller and more prevalent, managing huge numbers of unmanned aircraft becomes important. If services like Amazon Prime Air take off, thousands of UAVs could be in the air at once. A team at NASA Ames Research Center has devised a way to manage airspace for drones, and it’s earned them a nomination for the 2018 Samuel J. Heyman Medals. Parimal Kopardekar, Sammies finalist and senior technologist for Air Transportation Systems at NASA Ames, says that unlike normal air traffic control, this drone-specific ATC is entirely digital.

 

“We bring the connectivity of awareness of vehicles and constricting the airspace by electronic means. So, every operator that wants to operate in the airspace have an awareness of what is going on… because now you have access [to] information,” said Kopardekar. “You see who else is out there, what the area of planned operation is because you are sharing and caring about each other and that’s how we are able to scale these operations. So, formally the FAA or any air navigation service provider can send in any constraints in the airspace.”