This post is also available in: heעברית (Hebrew)

A new development by NASA is aimed at aiding first responders. This new system, by the name of STEReO, was created to increase the use of unmanned aircraft systems during disaster responses. This prototype is designed to improve situational awareness by notifying drone pilots of any crewed aircraft positions. Thus, make it easier to perform a safe fire response operation. 

According to aviationtoday.com, using drones to fight fires is not a new concept. In 2019, drones were an integral part of minimizing the damage caused by the fire that broke out at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. The firefighters used two camera equipped DJI drones to most effectively direct their firehoses.

A drone pilot or flight crew can use manual methods to detect other aircraft operating near the UAS. For example, visual observers can be positioned in multiple locations. They can also include an extra member of the flight crew that is responsible for noticing any other aircraft and alerting the operator. “STEReO is meant to supplement their procedures,” remarked research psychologist Joey Mercer, who is the principal investigator on NASA’s STEReO project. They can still carry out all of their processes in the same way, he said, “but now we have this extra digital visual observer who can essentially tap us on the shoulder. This notion is what we’re calling technology-enhanced situational awareness.” 

Pilots conducting UAS missions “understand that they are the ones that shoulder that burden for see-and-avoid,” he said, rather than pilots of larger aircraft having the responsibility of avoiding any small drones.

“We could go one step further and set up alerting rings,” Mercer said, such as: “Please beep at me if something gets closer than X, or double beep at me if it gets closer than Y.” This eliminates the need for a member of the flight crew to be completely responsible for monitoring other aircraft. “That sort of workflow is what is supplementing that kind of proactive see-and-avoid,” he added.