FAA in tests to integrate drones into national airspace

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the USA says it will soon begin field-testing new drone-traffic-management capabilities to expedite the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the country’s National Airspace System. 

Following on the last round of testing that took place in late 2020 at the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and the New York UAS Test Site, this Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) Field Test, is scheduled for spring this year, and will allow the government and the drone community to continue improving standards, data-exchange methods and cybersecurity capabilities. 

“Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) is a “traffic management” ecosystem for uncontrolled operations that is separate from, but complementary to, the FAA’s Air Traffic Management (ATM) system,” the FAA says of its drone integration programme.

“UTM development will ultimately identify services, roles and responsibilities, information architecture, data exchange protocols, software functions, infrastructure, and performance requirements for enabling the management of low-altitude uncontrolled drone operations.

“The FAA, NASA, other federal partner agencies, and industry are collaborating to explore concepts of operation, data exchange requirements, and a supporting framework to enable multiple beyond visual line-of-sight drone operations at low altitudes (under 400 feet above ground level (AGL)) in airspace where FAA air traffic services are not provided.”

The test outcomes will provide the FAA with critical information to support the development of new policies and for industry development of updated standards to allow drones to routinely fly beyond visual line of sight of the operators.

The FAA and its industry partners will conduct multiple drone flights in realistic test scenarios to learn more about how to manage drone traffic in varying environments. The flight tests will examine how the latest capabilities and standards will work to support the operations in the real world.


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