NASA is testing drones as air traffic controllers
NASA recently tested drones to serve as unmanned air traffic controllers, according to Recode.
The tests, which were conducted at the Reno, Nevada, airport, are part of a larger research project spearheaded by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop an unmanned air traffic control system.
The tests were designed to see whether a mapping alert platform could track drones in real time, report flight paths, and alert the drones of unanticipated hazards. According to NASA, the tests represented the first instance of drones flying beyond the line of sight of the operator while also being tracked by NASA’s drone platform.
NASA began testing drones earlier this year and hopes to conclude doing so in 2019, at which point it will make recommendations for a national solution. The agency began testing due to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which mandated that research is conducted on drones as air traffic controllers and to create rules for safely piloting them.
Using drones as air traffic controllers could save the FAA money and prevent potential dangers. Human air traffic controllers often are overworked, which can lead to them being tired or distracted on the job. A study found that 2 in 10 air traffic controllers had committed a significant error in the past year, and were averaging 5.8 hours of sleep every workweek. Rather than hiring more air traffic controllers, the FAA could implement less expensive drones, which would be more cost effective.
Drones turned the corner in 2015 to become a popular consumer device, while a framework for regulation that legitimizes drones in the US began to take shape. Technological and regulatory barriers still exist to further drone adoption.
Drone manufacturers and software providers are quickly developing technologies like geo-fencing and collision avoidance that will make flying drones safer. The accelerating pace of drone adoption is also pushing governments to create new regulations that balance safety and innovation.
Safer technology and better regulation will open up new applications for drones in the commercial sector, including drone delivery programs like Amazon’s Prime Air and Google’s Project Wing initiatives.
BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has compiled a detailed drones report that forecasts sales revenues for consumer, enterprise, and military drones. It also projects the growth of drone shipments for consumers and enterprises.
The report details several of world’s major drone suppliers and examines trends in drone adoption among several leading industries. Finally, it examines the regulatory landscape in several markets and explains how technologies like obstacle avoidance and drone-to-drone communications will impact drone adoption.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:
- We project revenues from drones sales to top $12 billion in 2021, up from just over $8 billion last year.
- Shipments of consumer drones will more than quadruple over the next five years, fueled by increasing price competition and new technologies that make flying drones easier for beginners.
- Growth in the enterprise sector will outpace the consumer sector in both shipments and revenues as regulations open up new use cases in the US and EU, the two biggest potential markets for enterprise drones.
- Technologies like geo-fencing and collision avoidance will make flying drones safer and make regulators feel more comfortable with larger numbers of drones taking to the skies.
- Right now FAA regulations have limited commercial drones to a select few industries and applications like aerial surveying in the agriculture, mining, and oil and gas sectors.
- The military sector will continue to lead all other sectors in drone spending during our forecast period thanks to the high cost of military drones and the growing number of countries seeking to acquire them.
In full, the report:
- Compares drone adoption across the consumer, enterprise, and government sectors.
- Breaks down drone regulations across several key markets and explains how they’ve impacted adoption.
- Discusses popular use cases for drones in the enterprise sector, as well as nascent use case that are on the rise.
- Analyzes how different drone manufacturers are trying to differentiate their offerings with better hardware and software components.
- Explains how drone manufacturers are quickly enabling autonomous flight in their products that will be a major boon for drone adoption.
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