drone above railroad tracks (Shutterstock image)

Beyond line of sight tech tested in New Mexico

As part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Pathfinder Program to expand use of unmanned aerial systems, Leidos Flight Service is expanding research on "beyond visual line of sight" flight by testing a system that provides automatic notifications of nearby drone operations.

The UAS Notification Service allows drone operators to file their flight plans online and then automatically generates and sends all required notifications, including to applicable military personnel general aviation pilots that will be flying in the same area while the UAS is operating.

Leidos is testing the technology with one of the Pathfinder Program’s three industry partners, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railways, which has been using drones to inspect sections of railroads in New Mexico.

"In addition to the traditional methods of inspecting railways, unmanned aircraft provide an efficient, cost-effective way to maintain their tracks," said Mike Glasgow, a Leidos fellow and chief architect of the notification service. "This process ensures all applicable parties and aircraft in the area are informed ahead of their UAS operations for safety."

The FAA released regulations for drone flight last year that requires UAS operators to be within the visual line of sight of the drone they are operating. As the technology advances, state and local governments, researchers and industry expect greater flexibility in the regulations.

North Dakota is working with Harris Corp. to build a detect and avoid network for drone operation, and researchers in Ohio are working with the Air Force Research Lab to upgrade the technology at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport to allow testing of UAS near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.

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