many drones in the sky (Andy Dean Photography/

NASA advises data sharing consortia for air mobility challenge

Training autonomous drones will require high-quality datasets, but NASA does not want to be that data-keeper.

The space agency, in new details released on its Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge, shied away from being the organization to maintain an open source data repository for challenge participants to use for development because of concerns over the intellectual property and privacy rights of participants.  Rather, NASA encouraged "the formation of participant consortia to facilitate dataset sharing, in order to level set industry requirements for data quality and integrity.”

Designed to "guide the design and development of a UAM ecosystem," NASA said the challenge calls on researchers and industry to test aircraft designs and their readiness for urban airspace some time in 2020. The challenge activities will collect data on vehicles and airspace management “that will help inform communities regarding some potential realities of UAM operations,” the agency said.

Dan Gettinger, the co-director of the Center for the Study of Drone at Bard College, said NASA is likely looking for “data on just how different systems interact in the airspace and what … systems need to incorporate, depending on their technical specifications, in order to plan for safety and airspace management considerations.”

The challenge will help inform the current standards the government has in place and the development of new guidelines for urban air mobility. NASA said its effort will not interfere with other ongoing standards efforts.

Responses to the request for information were due earlier this month. NASA said it expects to have finalized challenge participants by summer of 2019.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.


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