If Congress is ever going to pass the Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2015 (H.R 1229; in committee since March 3, 2015), which will give wings to the U.S. drone industry, it?ll need assurance that an effective drone traffic control system is in place tracking and monitoring every drone aloft in the National Air Space System (NAS).
Otherwise, no Member of Congress could even begin to reasonably assure any constituent that the skies will be safe during the ensuing Drone Sky Rush upon passage of the bill.
Since H.R. 1229 will come out of committee and be put to a vote by the 114th Congress in September, great haste is needed to build out, test and prove that such a drone tracking system will work.
See full text: Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2015
?To amend the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to provide guidance and limitations regarding the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into United States airspace, and for other purposes.?
As H.R. 1229 now stands, the prognosis for passage, according to govtrack.us, is one percent.
As a retired Air Force general once told me with a sobering look: ?Drones running free in the NAS are fine?until one crashes into the Rose Bowl.?
Can you see me now?
In that drive for drone assurance, the Guardian announced today that NASA and Verizon have teamed up to create a drone tracking system that may have something of a decent shot at bulking up that one percent prognosis.
?Verizon, the US?s largest wireless telecom company,? reports the Guardian, ? is developing technology with NASA to direct and monitor America?s growing fleet of civilian and commercial drones from its network of phone towers.
?According to documents obtained by the Guardian, Verizon signed an agreement last year with NASA ?to jointly explore whether cell towers ? could support communications and surveillance of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) at low altitudes?.
With a starter grant of $500,000 the drone tracking project is now at NASA Ames (Ames Research Center).
This summer, the high-tech pair will conduct the first tests of their efforts at an air traffic control system for drones.
With completion dates that are hardly music to any drone advocate?s ears, Verizon?s cell towers for coverage of ?data, navigation, surveillance and tracking of drones? will near readiness by 2017. Finalization of the system?s technology won?t come until 2019. Ouch!
According to NASA, the end capability of the drone tracking system, says the Guardian?s piece is a system that enables ?safe low-altitude drone flights within the next four years. At the moment, there is little to stop operators flying wherever they want. NASA is aiming for a technology that will automatically ?geo-fence? drones to keep them away from sensitive areas like the White House, ground drones in bad weather, help them to avoid buildings and each other while flying and decide which drones have priority in congested airspaces.? And the Rose Bowl.
A few cautions
Missy Cummings, professor of aeronautics at Duke University. ?Radar coverage at low altitude is very spotty, and we don?t have the technology or the people to put a tracking device on each drone.?
See more at: The Guardian, June 3, 2015