Drones Heading For The NAS


NASA photo

The remotely piloted Ikhana drone could be flying unescorted in the National Airspace System as early as fall 2018, NASA said last week. Testing in the NAS is planned to take place from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. During the test, Ikhana would fly alone in the NAS for the first time, without a manned aircraft nearby. “Integration of UAS into the NAS for routine flight operations is a complicated endeavor,” said NASA engineer Sam Kim. The flight will require “new technologies, exhaustive research through modeling and simulations, and comprehensive flight testing,” said Kim. Eventually, NASA says, their goal is to make it routine for manned and unmanned aircraft to share the same airspace.

Most current operations of unmanned aerial systems in the NAS require that a piloted chase aircraft serve as the UAS’s “eyes” to see and avoid other aircraft. During the 2018 flight demonstration, Ikhana will employ its own detect-and-avoid systems integrated on board the aircraft and in the ground-control station to maintain safe separation with other aircraft and avoid collisions, NASA said. NASA’s “UAS in the NAS” project team has worked with the drone community since 2011 to address the technical barriers that preclude routine drone operations in the national airspace. Meanwhile, a panel of industry and law enforcement officials have failed to reach agreement on how drones should be tracked and managed by federal authorities, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The FAA advisory committee couldn’t reach consensus on key issues, and most members of the committee declined to sign the group’s final report, which was submitted to the FAA last week. Members of the panel represented hobbyists, police and commercial drone users, Bloomberg said. Each advocated for their own special interests and failed to reach consensus. “The FAA will review the advisory committee’s report and its findings carefully,” the agency told Bloomberg in an email.