NASA plans air traffic control system for drones – iT News

‘New era of aviation’ requires management systems for safety, privacy.

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I think this is a good space to contain this problem. Drones are going to be a huge safety problem. Most of them are not that smart and there appear to be very few laws in place around them for individuals, military or business use.

Whilst other aerial devices like blimps have garnered very little interest outside of sport, real estate and specialist photography, drones are already everywhere.

At Guangzhou Airport last week, a salesgirl was demonstrating drone toys with cameras inside the terminal, quite an appropriate place to show off that they can be low cost and user friendly. Take that drone into the air at that busy airport with no comms between it and the air traffic control tower and you have electronic seagulls waiting to be sucked into the jet engines of a Dreamliner about to get speed wobbles.

Did you know that last year Google were doing test flights of drone based deliveries in Queensland, Australia? Amazon now has permission from the FAA to test deliveries by drone in Seattle.

NASA is looking at all the considerations that need to take place for commercial use of drones and is hosting a conference next month together with the Silicon Valley chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Sorry didn’t know they existed either.

So here’s my concern and its the same one I had imagining the world of the Jetsons’s coming to life. Imagine if each home had 2.5 flying cars! We struggle to contain traffic safely on the ground, but if they started hitting each other at 100 meter altitude, we couldn’t even control where the rubble would land.

It’s good to know that we aren’t waiting for serious crashes to happen before we start thinking about the implications, but obviously there need to be some significant rules about who can use them, how they can be controlled, how they communicate with each other and an Air Traffic Control authority. There need to be rules about limits on toys including factors such as individual privacy; a naturalist friend recently found a crash landed drone in their backyard, perhaps the pilot didn’t have enough hands.

I can see some great uses for drones such as to provide images to emergency at serious accident sites that don’t have fixed cameras. It could save lives and help open roads more quickly. But if Dominoes started delivering pizza by drone and Amazon started sending some of its more than 3 million deliveries a day by drone (that’s only two companies) and remember we are now talking drones that don’t have a pilot, i.e. those would be autonomous devices, there isn’t a pilot making adjustments for unexpected weather conditions or a building that wasn’t on a map, we have some serious risks.

Compare those to some of the incidents I have raised in previous blogs about people blaming poor quality of car navigation maps, causing them to drive to incorrect locations, or even into rivers or lakes, what do you think the state of 3D urban mapping is like in your city, such that an unmanned, low cost device can simply be told, go to this place downtown, go down to street level and drop your payload on the back entrance of the building, then return to base by the fastest route. Then lets have a few hundred, being deliberately conservative, fly back to the same base t the same time, in gusty winds, an unexpected rain or hail front. The toys are pretty light and designed to be flown within line of site, but add in GPS, camera, communications, proximity detection systems, a payload and a few more toys you have a very interesting situation.

Have no doubts that all of these things are being tested, for NASA, DARPA and Amazon, the motivations and missions are different, but if they can get it right, it can change our world. I suspect in the very near world it will , but the right thing to do is to regulate the industry in conjunction with industry partners, before it self destructs in a flaming heap of rotors, gyros and your favorite pizza sauce. Acceptable risk does vary depending on the theater. There is big money and power behind these developments and one way or another, the cost benefit ratio means they will be competing for airspace somewhere near you.

Read more:,nasa-plans-air-traffic-control-system-for-drones.aspx#ixzz3dFmlGx6s

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About Luigi Cappel

Writer for hire, marketing consultant specialising in Location Based Services. Futurist and Public Speaker Auckland, New Zealand
This entry was posted in Amazon, DARPA, Dominoes, Drones, Google, NASA and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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