FAA UAS test sites to launch simultaneous flights for NASA research.

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center is participating in the largest test yet of NASA’s UAS traffic management (UTM) research platform.

The test, scheduled for Tuesday, April 19, includes up to 24 unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly called drones, which will remotely fly simultaneously at six Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) UAS test sites located around the country.

Participating UAS operators at the six sites will enter their planned flight operations and the UTM research platform will check for conflicts, accept or reject the flight plans and notify the users.

This test boasts several firsts:

  • First multi-site test of NASA’s UTM research platform.
  • First coordinated test across all six FAA test sites.
  • Most simultaneous, live UAS flights under the UTM research platform.
  • First UTM demonstration with live flights and simulated flights in the same scenario.
  • First demonstration of several independent UTM research client implementations.
  • First live use of NASA-developed UTM displays and apps at each test site.

The flights are scheduled for April 19, 2016, with back up dates on April 20 and 21. Since UAS are susceptible to winds, NASA engineers checked weather reports on Friday, April 15, and determined that on Tuesday, April 19, five of the six FAA test sites will have appropriate weather conditions. The flight window is 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. CDT. They will likely fly no earlier than 10 a.m. CDT. Once NAA NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, gives the go-ahead, each FAA test site will begin flight operations and interactions with the UTM research platform flying up to four drones at each location. The minimum success criteria is 16 drones. Engineers at Ames will monitor the flights remotely using UTM.

The purpose of this test is for operators outside NASA from all six FAA test sites to interact with the UTM research platform at geographically diverse locations, using various aircraft and different software clients to test rural, within line-of-sight UAS operations so that NASA, in collaboration with the FAA, can obtain information to further refine and develop the research. The six FAA test sites will fly UAS in the following areas: Fairbanks, Alaska; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Reno, Nevada; Rome, New York; Blacksburg, Virginia; Bushwood, Maryland; and if weather permits, Corpus Christi, Texas.