21 Jan

NASA Operates First Drone without Chase Plane

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The space agency says that the historic flight, involving a remotely operated Ikhana aircraft, helps the United States to edge closer to making similar unmanned flights more normal in areas where private and commercial pilots also operate.

In fact, a NASA press release indicates that such remotely flown trips could open up different possibilities, such as monitoring and putting out wildfires and conducting emergency search-and-rescue missions.

Ed Waggoner, NASA’s Integrated Aviation Systems Program director, said, “This is a huge milestone for our Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National Airspace System project team. We worked closely with our Federal Aviation Administration colleagues for several months to ensure we met all their requirements to make this initial flight happen.”

It's traditionally been the duty of a manned chase aircraft to follow large unmanned planes like the Ikhana when they attempt to navigate through airspace used by commercial aircraft. NASA says that it received special permission from the FAA to conduct its no-chase flight under a special waiver, which let the Ikhana rely on Detect and Avoid technology. In other words, the remote pilot on the ground was able to see and avoid other planes during the flight, ostensibly eliminating the need for a chase plane.

“We are flying with a suite of sophisticated technology that greatly enhances the safety capabilities of pilots flying large unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace System,” said Scott Howe, a test pilot. “We took the time to mitigate the risks and to ensure that we, as a program, were prepared for this flight.”

The successful flight was the first remotely piloted one to use detect and avoid tech to fulfill the FAA's "see and avoid" regulations.

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Read 1354 times Last modified on Monday, 14 January 2019 01:05
Jim Lillie

Jim began writing for newspapers and designing for publishing companies at a time when both industries were just beginning to make the switch from manual to digital platforms. Jim lives in Boulder, Colorado with his teenage son.

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