During last week’s FAA Symposium in Baltimore, Amazon, Boeing, GE, and Google announced that they are ready to start working on the development of a private Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system for drones. Testing in conjunction with NASA is supposed to start in the next three months. The system will enable swarms of drones to fly a couple of hundred feet above the ground using cellular and web applications to avoid collisions and allow for remote tracking.
A “TOTALLY DIFFERENT, NEW WAY OF DOING THINGS”
Amazon, Boeing, and Google have already expressed their visions of deliveries made by drones in the future. The companies have also started testing these new technologies on small scale. However, large-scale use of drones to make deliveries will require a robust drone traffic management system, that will prevent drones from crashing into each other or, worse, manned aircraft.
The make these visions a reality, the companies have teamed up with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). During one of the presentation at the FAA Symposium, Parimal Kopardekar, NASA’s senior air-transport technologist told the audience, that the intent is to develop a “totally different, new way of doing things.”
The new drone UTM is to be developed separately from the FAA’s existing ground-based radars and human air traffic controllers but would need to be able to interact with it. Furthermore, the system would provide information to law enforcement agencies on the ground to help them identify and track drones from clueless, careless or criminal drone pilots. The drone UTM will be completely funded by the companies to help speed up the development time.
THE TECHNOLOGY TO DO THIS IS BASICALLY OFF THE SHELF
In an article in the Wall Street Journal [paywall], Gur Kimchi, vice president of Amazon Prime Air said that for many of the engineering challenges, “the technology to do this is basically off the shelf,” and that it could “take a year or two” to solve the biggest challenges of creating a drone air traffic management system.