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Reno-Stead Airport’s future is looking upward, to the world of drones. Recently, members of the media were invited to see the latest technologies NASA is working on as part of its UAS Traffic Management (UTM) project at a test range at the north end of the airport.

According to thisisreno.com, this is a project NASA engineers have been building to monitor low-flying aircrafts, such as drones, along with helicopters and other small aircrafts. Currently, drone operators literally watch their drone in the sky to avoid collision with other drones or aircraft. However, if a drone operator loses sight of their drone for any reason there is no way for them to know what is happening in the airspace around their drone.

The UTM in development, and successfully demonstrated at the event, strives to give operators a real-time view of their airspace to prevent accidents. NASA experts on hand included Parimal Kopardekar, Ph.D., manager of NASA’s Safe Autonomous Systems Operations (SASO) project and lead of NASA’s UTM efforts, and colleague Tom Prevot, Ph.D., associate project manager of the SASO project.

Kopardekar and Prevot explained that the UTM technology would help to de-conflict the airspace, something critical as drones become more prevalent and more widely used by both the government and private sector.

The test area included two dirt runways and a few modified shipping containers, as well as tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of drones and technologic systems. Three separate drones took off, two hand-launched drones from Del Air Tech and Carbon Autonomous, and one larger drone from Drone America. While in the air the UAS/UTM monitored their elevation and location broadcasting to San Francisco and back with only a one second delay. A 4 kilogram care package was dropped from a drone as part of an emergency response scenario.