NASA’s drone traffic control system

Drones are already very capable machines, but before they are unleashed over busy cities to police the streets, carry out deliveries and repair potholes, authorities need to have a plan in place for all that extra air traffic.

NASA has been developing a solution to this over the past four years, and is now moving ahead with its final phase of testing where drones will put through their most complex demonstrations yet.

NASA’s drone traffic management system is an effort to avoid Wild West-type situation where unmanned aircraft are free to fly wherever they want and bring some order to the order to the skies. The idea is to have corridors of airspace reserved for unmanned aircraft carrying out different tasks, below the altitude where general aviation begins at 500 ft (152 m).

You could see a low-speed slice of airspace reserved for hobbyists operating video drones, for example, and another channel set aside for faster-moving delivery drones. These boundaries could be enforced through dynamic geofencing software that prevents aircraft from flying off course or into restricted airspace.

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