NASA Tests Drone Traffic System


In the firstand largest demonstration of its kind, staffers from NASA and the FAA last week flew 22 drones simultaneously from six test sites across the country to assess NASA’s drone traffic management system. Operators outside NASA entered flight plans and planned operations from several locations, using various kinds of aircraft and software. The traffic-management system checked for conflicts, approved or rejected the flight plans and notified users of constraints. The research platform “performed well,” said Parimal Kopardekar, NASA’s manager for the project. “This test would not have been possible without the six FAA test sites – it was a collaborative effort to ensure a successful test.”

A total of 24 drones flew multiple times throughout the three-hour test. In addition to the live aircraft interacting with the system, NASA Ames introduced dozens of virtual aircraft into the same airspace. This mixing of live flights with virtual flights provided additional insight for future tests to refine the concept, NASA said. The six test sites were located in Fairbanks, Alaska; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Reno, Nevada; Rome, New York; Virginia Tech’s locations in Blacksburg, Virginia, and Bushwood, Maryland; and Corpus Christi, Texas.