First publishedon www.ITSInternational.com
US space agency Nasa is moving into the final phase of its four-year programme to prove that it can safely control drones flying over urban centres.
Drones, less commonly called unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), are likely to form an increasing proportion of the transportation mix for future cities, but questions remain over their safety – particularly in built-up, heavily populated areas.
Nasa will test them in two areas – the gambling hotspot of Reno, Nevada, and the Texan city of Corpus Christi.
It is partnering with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems in Las Vegas and the Lone Star UAS Center for Excellence & Innovation in Corpus Christi to carry out the trials.
The two organisations are hosting the demonstrations which Nasa hopes will prove that its UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system can manage drones safely and efficiently in an urban setting.
The drone flights will take place in and around downtown Reno between March and June, and in Corpus Christi during July and August.
"This phase represents the most complicated demonstration of advanced UAS operating in a demanding urban environment that will have been tested to date," said Ronald Johnson, Nasa UTM project manager.
Nasa and the Federal Aviation Administration say the aim is “to help the commercial drone industry understand the challenges posed by flying in an urban environment”.
The flight demos “will help inform future rules, policies and traffic management procedures for operating drones safely over populated areas”.
Technology to be assessed includes the UAS Service Supplier interface for independent UAS traffic management service providers – and Nasa will also be looking at the way these providers in turn interact with vehicle-integrated detect-and-avoid capabilities, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication and collision avoidance.
The UTM project is part of the Airspace Operations and Safety Program in Nasa's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.
Last year DriveOhio announced it was to use drones to understand how to manage traffic, roadway incidents and roadway conditions along the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor in a three-year project intended to complement autonomous and connected vehicle tests along the 35-mile stretch between Dublin and East Liberty.