University UAS researchers share information network with NASA

UAS researchers and NASA can see each other's drone flights via a secure data network.

Image courtesy of www.darpa.mil: a small UAV charts a course through a collapsed building.

A small unmanned aerial vehicle charts a course through a collapsed building. Image courtesy of DARPA.

Researchers at one of the six university-based unmanned aircraft system centers of excellence have connected with NASA's secure information network to share communications for UAS flights.

The agreement is part of the Federal Aviation Administration's effort to create a complex drone traffic management system among UAS test sites that might help in future wider use of commercial drones.

In April, NASA and the FAA formed a partnership operation as part of the Obama administration's announcement of formal rules for commercial drones. At the time, White House officials also said the FAA had completed a successful test of the most complex drone traffic management system ever. The goal is to integrate it into the system for passenger aircraft.

An Aug. 11 interconnection security agreement between NASA and the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi sets guidelines for the center to connect with NASA's secure IT systems and work toward better UAS traffic management. The agreement gives university researchers direct access to NASA's Ames Research Center for the exchange of real-time UAS flight data.

In an Aug. 11 statement, center officials said they had been working with NASA to document and bolster security practices ahead of signing the agreement.

"We already have a strong relationship with NASA working on the Unmanned Traffic Management project," said Melanie Neely Willis, the center's assistant director, in the statement. "This new connection gives us the capability to pass live and simulated UAS data within NASA's secure information network."

Additionally, the FAA's commercial drone operation rule is set to go into effect on Aug. 29. The agency created a website to explain the new regulations and help operators prepare for them.

Under the rule, commercial UAS operators must have a remote pilot's license, be at least 16 years old and pass vetting by the Transportation Security Administration.

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