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LSUASC to Provide NASA Valuable Data for UAS Traffic Management on June 6

June 01, 2017

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – For the second year in a row, the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation (LSUASC) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is working alongside NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) concepts and technologies. LSUASC will conduct a series of flights at the Charles R. Johnson Airport, which is located two hours south of Corpus Christi, in Port Mansfield beginning Monday, June 5, through Friday, June 9.

During a special media demonstration on Tuesday, June 6, LSUASC will perform a scenario in which a boat has capsized in the Laguna Madre. During the scenario, LSUASC will send a UAS carrying a detect-and-avoid radar to the site of the capsized boat to provide a live situational awareness of the incident. LSUASC commercial partner, Echodyne produces the detect-and-avoid radar that will be attached to an AirRobot AR180 quadcopter drone. The Port Mansfield Police Department will also provide support during the scenario. Data collected during the scenarios will provide NASA with vital information needed to further develop its UTM research platform.

“The scenarios will allow LSUASC, along with its commercial partners, to provide NASA with data that will directly impact the integration of safe and efficient low-altitude drone operations in the national airspace system,” explained Dr. Melanie Neely Willis, Assistant Director of the LSUASC. “This event is also a great example of how LSUASC is involved in low-altitude drone research and implementation right here in the Coastal Bend.”

The following experts will also be available during the scenario to provide commentary and answer questions about the UTM research program:

  • Jerry Hendrix, Executive Director of the LSUASC
  • Jeffrey Homola, Researcher in the Airspace Operations Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center
  • Thomas Meyer, President of AirRobot US, Inc.
  • Tom Driscoll, Chief Technology Officer for Echodyne
  • Ronald D. Mills, Port Mansfield Director
  • David Mayes, Port Mansfield Police Chief

“These flights establish the framework by which the UTM and autonomous research conducted by the LSUASC and our partners will transition into certified National Airspace beyond visual line-of-sight operations,” said Hendrix. “Again, the LSUASC leads the way by integrating and testing a true airborne commercial detect-and-avoid radar integrated within an aircraft to allow for situational awareness capability.”

LSUASC will conduct the scenarios along with UAS test sites in Alaska, North Dakota, Virginia and New York but will provide unique research opportunities thanks to its geographical location and investment in airborne sensor technologies that support autonomous flights beyond visual line of sight. The Texas test site, managed by the LSUASC, covers more than 68,000 square miles of FAA-approved airspace stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Big Bend region of Texas. LSUASC also operates nationwide under Certificates of Waiver or Authorization from the FAA.

The upcoming tests will complete the second phase of NASA’s four-part research program to evaluate and demonstrate how UAS operations can be safely conducted in low-altitude airspace using the UTM construct. During phase one, LSUASC conducted a multi-site test of NASA’s UTM research program in 2016. Plans are also in the works for the third phase of the research program where the data collected during phase two will be put into use.

 For more information on the LSUASC, visit http://lsuasc.tamucc.edu/.