Drone traffic management taking off

College of Engineering

Kamesh Namuduri, professor of electrical engineering at the University of North Texas, has joined forces with the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence & Innovation at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi on a NASA project focused on research toward safely and effectively managing drone traffic in urban areas.

The multi-level project requires drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), to communicate with UAS Service Suppliers (USS) to receive real-time information about emergencies, route modifications, or changes in weather fronts and react accordingly. For direct communication like this, the drones need to be within the radio line of sight (RLoS) of a USS to receive the message.

“Legally, an operator needs to be within the visual line of sight of their drone at all times, which is more of a safety precaution than a technical challenge for a drone. Doing so allows the operator to receive information and make course corrections or changes as necessary,” said Namuduri. “But, if we could create drone-to-drone communications, the USS could stay in continuous contact with drones that are beyond radio line of sight.”

That’s where UNT comes in.

Namuduri and his team of graduate and undergraduate students are working on creating and testing drone-to-drone communication strategies. Namuduri says there are multiple approaches the team could use to facilitate drone-to-drone communications, including cellular communications, satellite communications and direct communications. For this project, they’re using tactical radios to establish direct communication between the drones.

The Lone Star team plans to start testing this summer and will focus on drone communications, collision avoidance, safe landing, services that support UAS operations, and safety in an urban landscape.

The testing is part of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) project. UTM is a partnership between NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration, and is led by NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley.

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