NASA designs air traffic control system for drones

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

drones delivery
Amazon’s drones will make deliveries ultra-convenient… and cool!

Unmanned robotic drones are taking to the skies, and while they’re mainly used overseas for military surveillance, companies like Google and Amazon are developing them for business purposes. Imagine being able to order a book or groceries, then have a flying machine deliver them to your house within a few hours! It will still take years for them to fly about the neighborhood freely, since the government’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that regulates air travel hasn’t given them free reign. In the meanwhile, NASA is developing a revolutionary air traffic control system for drones.

Recently, Google unveiled its Project Wing drone program, which is being developed by their Google X research branch. The experimental machines use a 200-foot-long fishing line to drop off goods to customers, after flying at a low altitude over the countryside and homes. It’s a blend of plane and helicopter that buzzes along speedily, similar to Amazon’s drones.

NASA’s air traffic control system will manage drones that hover at 400-500 feet off the ground, so that they can avoid collisions with each other, bigger aircraft, structures, and natural obstacles like mountains or trees. They’re currently testing it at Moffett Field Airfield, which is roughly 4 miles from Google’s Mountain View headquarters in Sunnyvale, California.

Featured image courtesy of Google. Image of Amazon delivery drone courtesy of Amazon.