UAV Canada

FAA names UTM project players

January 15, 2019  By UAV Canada Staff

Elaine Chao, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary, on January 14 introduced proposed new rules to allow unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to fly overnight and over people without waivers under certain conditions. Chao’s announcement also focused on efforts to integrate drones safely into the national airspace system of the United States through a new UTM (unmanned traffic management) pilot project.

A PDF of the draft for the Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems over People can be viewed here.

While these UAS operator rules are still in a draft form, the FAA did select three organizations to take part in its UTM pilot project, which is significant as states and cities in the country vie for a position as some of the leading UAS research programs in the world. The UTM project was initiated by NASA. In April 2017, through congressional direction, NASA and the FAA combined their research and began defining the scope of the UTM pilot project.


Chao explains the resulting Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management System Pilot Project (UPP) will be distinct, but complementary to, the traditional FAA’s air traffic management system. UPP will run through September 2019 with the intention of developing and demonstrating how a traffic management system can safely integrate drone flights within the nation’s airspace system.

The following providers were selected, according to the FAA, based on the strength of industry partnership, the maturity of the technology offered, and overall cost: Nevada UAS Test Site Smart Silver State; Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site; and the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership.

These contracts, explains the FAA, have been awarded to mature technologies for unmanned aircraft traffic management including, flight planning, communications, aircraft separation and weather services for these drones, which will operate under 400 feet.

“Our Nevada Team is very much looking forward to evolving and safely integrating aerial drones into the National Airspace System,” said Dr. Chris Walach, senior director of all FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Sites and Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems. “The DOT/FAA UPP, initially launching in the City of Reno has the full support of the Reno Mayor and City Staff, is unlike any other FAA pilot to date, and is a major stepping stone for growing the Nevada and National UAS Industry. Our participating partners are the very best across the UAS Industry and each one brings an incredible capability to Nevada and we are looking to make the state the global location of choice for Smart Communities and Drone Technologies.”

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve described how Nevada is quickly becoming a focal point for the UAS industry. “Last year, the City of Reno was selected to participate in the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program, and now we are very honoured to have the opportunity to partner with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems as they conduct testing that will help develop processes for safe integration of drones into the National Airspace.”

This past year, Business Facilities magazine ranked Nevada second among all states for its drone industry, with New York coming in first. “With additional State of Nevada capital investment in growing the Nevada Drone Industry, Nevada has a real chance at being number one not only nationally, but globally,” said Walach.

The Nevada UPP team will focus on advanced airspace, drone, and sensor technology for safe drone airspace operations in an urban environment. The Nevada UAS Test Site proposal included more than 20 Nevada-based and out of state, and international partners. There will be additional testing in the City of Henderson or Town of Laughlin, Nevada.

The Nevada (Smart Silver State) UPP partners include: AiRXOS, a GE venture, ANRA Technologies, WhiteFox Defense, Iris Automation, Drone America, Praxis Aerospace Concepts International, UltiSat Inc., AviSight, Deseret-UAS/USU, Telesis, Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, the Cities of Reno and Henderson, Town of Laughlin, and international partners Unifly and Institute of Aviation, Warsaw (ILOT).

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