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Jun 4, 2015 | Surveying and Mapping

UTM NASA’s low-altitude air traffic management research for UAS

Parimal Kopardekar will be a panelist at the upcoming InterDrone Conference in September speaking about how to successfully integrate drones into the NAS (national airspace). His work at NASA on UTM (the NASA’s low-altitude air traffic management research for unmanned aerial systems) is going to be a critical component to this effort, so we reached out to our friends at NASA to ask a few questions and learn more. What follows is our interview with a NASA Spokesperson about this work.

Q. We are excited as we know that Parimal is the Manager of the NASA’s Safe Autonomous System Operations (SASO) Project. Could you explain a bit about this project for our readers?

To address the needs of future air transportation and airspace operations, the Safe Autonomous Systems Operations (SASO) Project at NASA identifies and develops the justifiable autonomous capabilities. The project’s goal is to meet future needs related to airspace operations densities, vehicle mix, safety, affordability, capacity, efficiency and predictability.

Right now, NASA’s low-altitude air traffic management research for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), known as UTM, comes on the heels of a society that is ready for UAS’s to perform practical uses such as parcel delivery, first responder support, agriculture, search and rescue, industrial and entertainment support. The emerging industry shows tremendous promise. Despite all the excitement surrounding the potential users of unmanned aircraft systems, we do not have an airspace management approach that is scalable to accommodate future demand.

From a capability standpoint, today’s unmanned aircraft systems represent a whole new level of evolution over previous unmanned aircraft. You can buy small unmanned aircraft systems today with highly capable on-board cameras, GPS and high-powered radios. They can be flown well outside visual line-of-sight. This new functionality has caused obvious concerns, from collision avoidance in urban settings to security concerns.

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