Industry and Commerce Working Toward Safe, Beneficial UAS Traffic Management Written 17 June 2016

InstantEye unmanned aircraft system. | NASA

by David HodesAerospace America contributing writer

Panelists: Moderator Gretchen West, senior adviser of innovation and technology, Hogan Lovells, and advisory board member, Drone World Expo; Sean Cassidy, director, Strategic Partnerships, Amazon Prime Air; David Famolari, director, Verizon Ventures; R. John Hansman, T. Wilson professor of aeronautics and astronautics and director of the International Center for Air Transportation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Parimal H. Kopardekar, manager, Safe Autonomous System Operations Project, and principal investigator, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management, NASA’s Ames Research Center; Craig Marcinkowski, director of strategy and business development, Gryphon Sensors; Peng Wei, assistant professor of aerospace engineering, Iowa State University

Managing the airspace traffic for unmanned aerial systems will take a coordinated effort from industry and government to keep the systems flying safely as well as to provide the benefits of such things as package delivery, panelists said June 16 at the 2016 AIAA Demand for Unmanned Symposium in Washington, D.C.

In the panel, “UAS Traffic Management System,” Parimal H. Kopardekar, manager of the Safe Autonomous System Operations Project and a principal investigator for Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management at NASA’s Ames Research Center, said the goal of NASA is to safely enable large-scale operations in the National Airspace System.

He said NASA must offer airspace operations guidance and performance roles for UAS operators while getting UAS suppliers to work with regulators.

Sean Cassidy, director of strategic partnerships for Amazon Prime Air, said the concept of operations includes the vehicle.

“You have to have a vehicle with performance levels commensurate with the operations,” he said. “You have to know how it reacts to others in the airspace.”

Good airspace operations, according to Cassidy, means you have to have vehicle-to-vehicle communication and some kind of standardization of controller-to-controller protocols.

“Having independent technology is a good thing in the short term,” he said. “But you need a coherent framework about what [UAS traffic management] means to you.”

Cassidy said Amazon is considering implementing a receiver for drones to land on that is aware of the traffic under 500 feet.

“We don’t have that option for the FAA to take time to develop standards,” he said. “This is the first time where speed is our friend.”

John Hansman, T. Wilson professor of aeronautics and astronautics and director of the International Center for Air Transportation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said there is a lot of confusion about what UAS traffic management, or UTM, is.

“There is no real concept of operation yet,” he said.

But one of the basic concepts of UTM, Kopardekaer said, is that we need to understand what is involved in going beyond line of sight.

“You want to know the constraints,” he said. “That is what this traffic management system will do.”


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