- NASA announced it will test its under-development drone traffic management system in Reno, Nevada and Corpus Christi, Texas, in what is the final phase of the agency’s four-year series of demonstrations of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).
- The agency will demonstrate its UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system and its ability to manage drone traffic in an urban area. The results will help inform future rules, policies and traffic management procedures for drones in highly-populated areas, with both the commercial drone industry and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) among NASA’s partners.
- "This phase represents the most complicated demonstration of advanced UAS operating in a demanding urban environment that will have been tested to date," Ronald Johnson, NASA’s UTM project manager, said in a statement.
This final test marks a significant milestone in NASA’s research on drones, as it is the last phase of its four-year initiative and will mean major tests for the technology in two highly populated cities.
As the test unfolds, it will be critical to see how drone traffic is managed around tall buildings, statues and other landmarks in the urban areas, as well as how the unmanned aircraft interact with each other — and hopefully avoid each other — as they fly around. The test is set to be carried out between March and June in downtown Reno, then in July and August in Corpus Christi.
States and cities are increasingly looking to harness the power of drones for all manner of uses. These use-cases include medical and package delivery, as well as more complex tasks like logistics and border control, the latter of which includes the inspection of trucks in San Diego as they cross into the United States from Mexico. In addition, UTM can aid in response to natural disasters, which requires a coordinated effort to ensure drones are being deployed in the most useful way possible.
Cities are increasingly looking to use their skies for deliveries as well as for transportation, with companies looking to introduce on-demand flying taxis that they believe can reduce crippling traffic congestion.
If this final NASA test is successful, it will give other cities as well as the public and private sectors a better idea of how to manage drones in their skies and usher in a new chapter of urban air travel.