Description: AirVūz News recently went to Grand Forks, North Dakota to learn more about NASA's UTM testing. UTM stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Traffic Management System. While only in the early stages of research and development, NASA's UTM project will revolutionize the way low altitude airspace is managed, and make flying drones safer for everyone. North Dakota is home to many different small UAS companies, which has earned it the moniker of being the "Silicon Valley of Drones" due to the rich ecosystem of businesses and opportunities. The University of North Dakota is a leader in UAS education and it's campus is home to many different drone companies, many of which have partnered with NASA for this important research. We Spoke with iSight RPV Services, Sky Skopes, and UAII just to name a few. See how they are helping to lead the way in helping NASA and the FAA make the skies safer for everyone in the future.
With several large companies including Walmart, T-Mobile, and Amazon looking to the skies for their businesses - including hobbyists and several small UAS companies - the skies are getting pretty crowded. Well, to make sure everyone can fly safely NASA is working with several small UAS companies to develop a system.
The UAV Traffic Management system, or UTM for short, is what NASA hopes to demonstrate, evaluate, and refine the functional designs for over the next few years. UTM technology prototypes that are developed will in turn get adopted by the FAA.
June 2017 was phase 2 of the 4 phase project, in which NASA simultaneously monitored the small UAV traffic from 6 different test locations across the country. This research couldn’t be done without assistance and coordination from local UAS operators who pushed data to NASA while performing tasks like Oceanic missions, lost hiker scenario and Utility inspections.
At a press briefing in Grand Forks, North Dakota we caught up with NASA Project manager Ron Johnson and asked him how the research might impact things like package delivery.
“You know; Industry is moving very quickly. Companies are doing their own testing on package delivery, so what we’re trying to do, what the FAA is trying to do is keep up or even get a little bit ahead. – So what we’re looking at are technologies and tools that will be useful 5, 10, even 20 years in the future.”
UTM incorporates everything from an aircraft’s onboard sense and avoid technologies to Human Systems Integration and networked ground stations to Geo-fencing and data pushed from the UTM Partners; local companies like Sky Scopes.
“We are literally a one skywalk away from here on UND campus at the Center of Innovation which is the home to the single largest UAS cluster of startups in the Nation.”
We spoke with Pilot in Command Andrew Schill about the data they sent over to NASA.
“How the telemetry is generated is there is an onboard autopilot on it; it got an electric gyroscope in it, so that’s your pitch, yaw, and roll, and there’s GPS data where it gets its position and altitude from. Also there’s a barometric altimeter on it and then with ours there’s a laser altimeter on it as well. All of that fed back over 2 systems, one is a 900Mh radio connection and the other is the LTE connection over 4 major cell networks, it picks the fastest 2 and sends it back to us that way to our ground station where we can see it in a nice heads-up display. We then push all that data to NASA over the LTE network and they can see what we see pretty much.”
“SkyScopes Vehicles were flying well, they flew the best, or the most hours, the most flights, and I think we got a lot of good data from them.”
“Sky Scopes was just one of the many UTM partners to team up with NASA. Right down the hall Doug McDonald Directs special projects at Unmanned Applications Institute International, or UAII, which teams up with other SUAS companies like iSight RPV Services to accomplish missions.
Doug – “So Essentially we got a stable of 6 operators that we use on a myriad of different projects. We try to send 2 pilots out per mission, one as a Visual Observer one as a Pilot in Command.”
Safety is paramount when coordinating between companies and their experienced Pilots.
Doug- “All the operators at both UAI and ISight are commercial pilots first and foremost. Internally we do a lot of work on maintaining safe practices its above and beyond just what’s above us but actually how we do our work on the ground as well.
Adam Overvols – “UAI and iSight collaborate together, that way we can share resources and share pilots and that way we can grow the industry together.”
Ryan Moriearty – “For UTM each company has been given set airspace and a mission that they want us to simulate or execute. So like a powerline inspection or an agricultural application, scanning a field or something like that. So we fly that mission for them and communicate with the other aircraft and make sure that separation is maintained and then give them our data on that for processing.”
Matt Dunlevy – “You really have to give props to NASA for doing this, The Unmanned Traffic Management Project really stands to revolutionize the way aircraft large and small is integrated into the airspace for years to come.
We’ll have more from the Silicon Valley of Drones coming soon to AirVuz.com.
For Air Vūz News, I’m Kendall Mark.