drones over city (elwynn/Shutterstock.com)

FAA digs deeper into drone traffic management

The Federal Aviation Administration announced new awards to three of the 10 drone integration pilot projects for development of technologies to further integrate drones into the national airspace.


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The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) system pilot project will focus on flight planning, communications, aircraft separation and weather services for drones flying under 400 feet, according to the FAA website.

The three research partners selected were the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota, Nevada's Unmanned Aircraft System Test Site and the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech University.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the awards at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting on Jan. 14.

The projects will "create a shared information network, and gather data that can be used for future rulemakings," she said.

The FAA also announced it plans to give commercial drones more freedom to operate over people and grant longer flight times under proposed new rules, if certain conditions are met.

The proposals are available in draft form on the FAA website and will be published "as soon as possible," Chao said. Right now, policymaking and oversight on drone technology is locked up because of the shutdown.

Mark Blanks, director of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech, said in an email that "the ability to routinely fly long distance beyond visual line of sight that will truly unlock the power of the technology."

A version of this article was first posted on FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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