VT takes part in NASA drone test

VT takes part in NASA drone test

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WSET) --Researchers in 6 cities nationwide, including Blacksburg, took to the skies with their drones to see if technology can keep planes and drones safe in the same airspace.

Right now, drones aren't allowed to fly in the same area as planes, but researchers at Virginia Tech's Mid Atlantic Aviation Partnership say if tests like today's keeping going as planned, they think that rule could change.

"This is the first step, as I said toward our eventual goal of allowing UAS to really fly, safely, almost anywhere in the airspace," explain Jon Greene, Senior Advisor for the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.

This experiment was directed by scientists at Ames NASA Research in Sunnyvale, California. NASA invited 6 research teams to take part in the event, Virginia Tech being one of them. "We have the aircraft systems here today and then NASA has their developmental system called UTM, or the unmanned traffic management system and that ultimately is the brains behind the deconfliction of the unmanned aircraft operations," explained John Coggin, the Chief Engineer for the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.

The team at Tech put their drones in the air at the same time as 5 other cities. They also sent a plane in the air at the same time. That allowed NASA to see if their system could track the drones and the planes, making sure they don't hit each other.NASA says this experiment went exactly how it hoped.

Greene explained, this is just the first of many experiments with NASA's new technology."We're going to try and fly in all sorts of different ways to try and push the envelope. To develop the technology to develop the data that allows us to make intelligent policy so that we can UAS for commercial purposes," said Greene.

However, even if every test goes well, that doesn't necessarily mean drone laws will change."This is a research program at this point, being conducted by NASA but the adoption of the technologies is ultimately a decision by the FAA," explained Coggin.

Sunday afternoon, a British Airways plane was hit by a drone near Heathrow Airport in London. The researchers at Tech say this technology could keep something like that from happening.

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