NASA juggles 22 drones in the air at the same time

A traffic management platform built by NASA engineers has passed this test with flying colours. Belinda Smith reports.

Jacob Moschler, operations and data analyst at the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, launches a UAV in Bushwood, Maryland.CREDIT: ALISON NICHOLS FOR UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND

NASA has completed its most complex drone traffic management test yet, keeping 22 unmanned aircraft aloft across the country using a coordinating platform earlier this month.

Over three hours at six Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) test sites, NASA and operators from the FAA flew 24 drones multiple times, with 22 in the air at one point, and added dozens of virtual flights into the mix to beef up the difficulty.

The mission was to assess NASA’s unmanned aircraft systems traffic management research platform – and it was deemed a success, as it achieved (and surpassed) the minimum 16 simultaneous drone flights.

“We didn’t have any testing problems today,” says Parimal Kopardekar, manager of NASA’s Safe Autonomous Systems Operations project and lead of unmanned aircraft systems traffic management.

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