NASA Flies First SIO Unmanned Aircraft Demonstration


In collaboration with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA‑ASI) and the FAA, NASA successfully completed the first flight of its Systems Integration and Operationalization (SIO) demonstration activities last Friday. According to NASA, the SIO demonstrations are designed to “highlight commercial UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] missions that have the potential to provide economic and public benefit” with the goal of working toward integrating commercial UAS operations into the national airspace system. Friday’s nine-hour demonstration flight was conducted using GA‑ASI’s SkyGuardian UAS.

“The flight demonstrated ways in which SkyGuardian can be used for a variety of commercial and public services applications using its onboard sensors,” NASA said. “Services featured in the SIO flight included inspections of hundreds of miles of rail, power line, communication and canal infrastructure, agriculture monitoring and topological surveys, as well as wildfire and flood monitoring.”

The aircraft departed from GA-ASI’s Gray Butte flight operations facility near Palmdale, California, and landed in Yuma, Arizona. It was operated by a remote pilot based at Gray Butte and used “data … collected from a GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid (DAA) system to provide situational awareness of air traffic.” Other SIO partners include Bell and American Aerospace.

Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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