NASA Staging Nationwide UAV Traffic-Management Test

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Up to 24 UAVs are planned to fly simultaneously at six FAA-designated test sites across the U.S. on April 19, in the biggest test yet of NASA’s UAV traffic management (UTM) system.

“Participating UAS operators at the six sites will enter their planned flight operations and the UTM research platform will check for conflicts, accept or reject the flight plans and notify the users,” NASA says.

Winds permitting, the national test campaign is planned for April 19, with backup dates of April 20 and 21. Using UTM, the flights will be monitored remotely from NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California.

The national campaign will test Build 1 of UTM, which enables UAV operators to reserve volumes of airspace, the system checking for conflicts with airspace restrictions and other users and pushing notifications of changes to users.

The UAVs are planned to fly in Fairbanks, Alaska; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Reno, Nevada; Rome, New York; Blacksburg, Virginia; Bushwood, Maryland; and, if weather permits, Corpus Christi, Texas. The minimum success criterion is 16 UAVs in flight.

Each test site will launch several aircraft, which will communicate simultaneously with the NASA UTM research platform. The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) test site plans to fly two aircraft at the Virginia Tech site and two at its Maryland site.

MAAP says the Virginia Tech team will also demonstrate a self-contained telemetry box that can allow any aircraft to interface with the central traffic management platform, avoiding the need to develop a separate interface for each type of software used by unmanned vehicles.

NASA closed out development of Build 1 in December, following a test in August at Crow’s Landing in California, during which 10 fixed- and rotary-wing UAVs completed more than 100 flights to demonstrate initial UTM capabilities.

The August tests also gathered data on how well the UAV followed flight plans and stayed within geofenced boundaries, and on the capability of surveillance systems to track the small aircraft. NASA also gathered data on the noise signatures of UAV.

Development of UTM Build 2 is scheduled to be completed in July, with a field demo planned for October. Build 2 will support safe beyond-visual-line-of-sight UAV operations over sparsely populated areas by containing flights within defined low-risk areas and informing other airspace users.

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