NASA to test urban drone traffic management in Texas and Nevada

Key Points
  • Drones are piloted by a range of users, including amateur enthusiasts, pizza delivery companies and the military.
  • Technologies set to be demonstrated include automated safe landing and vehicle-to-vehicle communication.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

NASA has chosen two organizations to "host" the last stage of technical demonstrations involving drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems.

The agency said Tuesday that the Lone Star UAS Center for Excellence & Innovation in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems in Las Vegas will host demonstrations in order to confirm that NASA's UAS Traffic Management system could "safely and effectively manage drone traffic in an urban area."

The last few years have seen drones become an increasingly common sight in our skies. Today, they're piloted by a range of users, from amateur enthusiasts to the military.

Their impact on modern life is not always positive, however. In late 2018, reports of drones at London's Gatwick airport caused huge disruption for travelers, with planes grounded and flights canceled.

On Wednesday, the U.K. government laid out plans for an extended no-fly zone to ban drones and model aircraft from flying within 5 kilometers of runway ends.

NASA said its demonstrations will allow itself and partners such as the Federal Aviation Administration to "help the commercial drone industry understand the challenges posed by flying in an urban environment."

It added that results from the demonstrations would help to inform "future rules, policies and traffic management procedures for operating drones safely over populated areas."

Technologies set to be demonstrated include automated safe landing and vehicle-to-vehicle communication and collision avoidance.

"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's UTM project manager.

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