Repost from MIT Technology Review:


How do you keep small drone aircraft safe in the world’s busiest national airspace? One idea is to have them use cellphone networks to feed data back to an air traffic control system made just for drones.

A startup called Airware is working with NASA on a project exploring how to manage the swarms of commercial drones expected to start appearing in U.S. skies. The four-year program will create a series of prototype air traffic management systems and could shape how widely commercial drones can be used. Airware’s main business is selling control software and hardware to drone manufacturers and operators.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has yet to propose rules to govern the use of commercial robotic aircraft in U.S. skies. But it predicts that 7,500 unmanned craft weighing 55 pounds (25 kilograms) or less will be operating in the U.S. by 2018. There is strong interest from agriculture, mining, and infrastructure companies in using drones for tasks like inspecting crops or gathering geospatial data (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2014: Agricultural Drones”).

That could mean gridlock in the skies, or at least increasingly unsafe traffic patterns. “You will have competing interests trying to use the same space,” says Jesse Kallman, head of business development and regulatory affairs at Airware. “Imagine Amazon trying to deliver packages in an area that an energy company is trying to survey their power lines.”

The first prototype to be developed under NASA’s project will be an Internet-based system. Drone operators will file flight plans for approval. The system will use what it knows about other drone flights, weather forecasts, and physical obstacles such as radio masts to give the go-ahead.

Read more here:

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • So the answer is "Food", when someone asks: "What do you want to eat today?".


  • I do like very much the copter design. The pod and boom style is a great concept and give great food for thought. I will have to check out delta drone..

    Somehow I think the air traffic control system for UAVs is ultimately going to work itself out with the innovation happening what seems dailey in the industry I am confident someone or some group will take down this hurdle also

  • If y'all don't mind I'd like open for discussion air-traffic control inside a city.

    Like the ubiquity of cars, there will be just simply too many of these things running around for a handful of controllers to handle well.

    I really don't think the folding drones into the traditional air-traffic control is going to work, especially if there are single points of failure as demonstrated by the depressed contractor in Chicago who took out a radar that didn't have a ready backup system. Effects of that were felt for days. Submitting flight plans ahead of time like they do know, seems like it will be just be a burden in this 21st century.

    Cities have electronic maps, GIS data, that contained up-to-date street direction and address information that could be accessed and queried. To my knowledge all modern cities have this information, thanks to the folks at ESRI.

    What I think may most likely occur inside cities, flying between 50ft-500ft, is these quadcopter streets will be over existing streets, as it should be mainly for safety's sake.

    The GIS data in cities can be queried for street address location and directions (unless Google wants to handle the job), and the cities themselves can log the flights by query, with whatever registration information the authorities feel necessary. Lanes of traffic can be staggered by height and separated so if a quad goes down, it won't run into any other quad traffic.

    In an emergency in a city, you really don't want a quad careening into someone's window if it goes down. Street cars are relatively armored, streets are made rugged being able to handle the accidents that tend to occur there. If a quad goes down, it will go down without hurting someone except itself, get crunched under a tire, and/or bounce off a car hood or roof without connecting with anyone inside.(Sorry, motorcyclists are just out of luck again and bicycles should just stay off the road).

    This isn't suggesting anything for highway, cross country or international traffic, just the harder problem of flying relatively close to people.

    Does this sound like something the bureaucrats will come up with?
  • While great in it's current use, PowerFLARM and it's clones are still pretty expensive at $500+. That said, we do need a better modern system than ADS-B and ACAS.

  • It would be nice to see a decentralized solution for managing UAV ecosystems. Birds of all shapes and sizes fly around all day and night long and not one of them is cleared by the FAA nor do they need "electronic highways." Call it a "bird brain" idea, but that's just what we need. :)

  • Surely the Flarm system  is well enough established to fulfil this purpose.

    Only aircraft performing doing work below 500 ft outside controlled airspace would have to carry it.

    The unit is not too big to be carried on bigger uavs, and a miniature version without the display is quite doable for smaller devices.

    Range could be considerably improved if necessary by using something like the RFD900.

    The manufacturers of the Flarm system already have the aviation experience and track record needed to make the concept viable and acceptable to aviation authorities.

  • FAA = Government = Controlling your freedom = Killing Innovations

    The FAA does not have the resources nor the funding to come up or enforce drone regulation by 2018 and will continue to try and overly restrict commercial and hobbyist drone operations.

    The international/national drone communities/industry and hobbyists interest groups like AMA are better off to self regulate safe drone operations by categorizing the drones purpose/range and with the help of technology that is open source and not monopolized
  • "7,500 unmanned craft"
    and 7,500,000 small toys and hobyist drone

  • That is a French Delta H quadcopter by Delta Drones
  • That's a very nice looking quadcopter design.

This reply was deleted.