NASA develops ‘Air Traffic Control’ for unmanned aircraft

NASA is working on software to realize air traffic control for unmanned aircraft. The space agency hopes to eventually be able to guide drones safely through habited zones.

The software that NASA is working on is intended for unmanned aircraft flying high up to about 150 meters, writes The New York Times. The system would, without direct human intervention, safely be able to accompany drones in the air, even though they fly in close proximity. In addition, the system also checks the weather. In particular, strong wind has a negative influence on the relatively light drones.

Google experimental drone
An experimental Google delivery drone in Queensland, Australia.

NASA wants to build systems in a way that air traffic control system ensures drones can avoid obstacles. Also, no-fly zones, such as in the vicinity of airports, must be avoided.

It is unclear how far NASA is using the software and how it will be communicating with future drones. Currently it is not permitted in the US to fly for commercial gain with drones, though companies like Google and Amazon are fully engaged in the development of unmanned aircraft, including for the delivery of packets.

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