Texas drone researchers share data via NASA network

Army wants to improve drone awareness

The Army is building a system that will allow it to monitor drone traffic over Fort Irwin in California and Fort Polk in Louisiana.

Drones serve a multitude of purposes on Army bases, including infrastructure inspection and search and rescue, according to Matthew Hitchon, a principal engineer of systems integration for Inter-Coastal Electronics, the firm working with the Army on this project. However, he said, there's no “air traffic control or way to view where all of these drones are.”

Tracking drones will require they carry a special piece of hardware that includes an LTE position location device and radio. The goal is to make a universal mounting for this hardware that can be placed on multiple drone bodies.

The hardware would communicate a drone's position using military grid coordinates over an LTE network to the Army’s Live Training Transformation platform, which supports training environments. This will allow operators to see all drones flying over the base as long as they’re outfitted with this hardware.

“This will take those drones and put them onto a network so that anyone who has the viewing capability" will also be able to see, Hitchon said.

Both bases already have LTE networks that carry data and voice and track other devices during training exercises, which is why that infrastructure is being leveraged to track drones. The hardware being developed, though, will be work with other communication networks by using a modular design that allows the radio module to be switched out, Hitchon said.

The three-phase project will first address general design, message flow between the device and the training network as well as cybersecurity issues and mitigation. The ability to share this location information will be demonstrated in the second phase; and five prototypes will be built in the third phase.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.

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