Google’s parent company Alphabet is working with the FAA and NASA to develop a drone-tracking system that should go some way to prevent drones crashing into manned aircraft.
The experimental drone delivery project at Alphabet’s X “moonshot” umbrella organisation has run a test for a brand new drone management called Project Wing. The trials took pace at Virginia Tech, carrying out challenges set by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and NASA.
During the Project Wings test, the team behind the drone tracking system were able to track multiple drones flying on different paths at once, on one single dashboard. Three of them were created by Project Wing. The other drone in the test was created by Intel and a third one was an Inspire from DJI.
Due to Wing’s drone air traffic control system, the drones automatically steered away from each other without the control of an operator. Using software, these drones are able to plan routes and send information to aircraft when airspace restriction is issued.
Although this isn’t the first tests the drone management system has undergone. Last September, a Chipotle burrito delivery was completed to Virginia Tech students at the same test site where the recent traffic management trial was conducted.
An employee told the Wall Street Journal that the most recent Wing drone model was not able to complete more than 300 successful flights before a problem occurred, so these more recent tests show the system has come on leaps and bounds.
The FAA and NASA are not scheduled to finish research into how to integrate drone air traffic control into the national airspace until 2017. However, this doesn’t mean that US businesses will have to wait that long until they can use drones to deliver their goods around the country.
It’s high up on President Donald Trump’s agenda too. Last week, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao laid out plans for a pilot program to allow local communities to control drone activity in their airspace.
Such a scheme could force private companies to obtain an agreement with the government to generate solutions for keeping drone air traffic control in check. This would enable businesses to fly their drones in airspace without having to wait for the FAA’s system to be fully tested.