Space

October 4, 2013

Dryden Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Progress

Raphael Jaffe
Staff writer

An extensive review of Dryden Flight Research Centerís activities in Unmanned Aircraft Systems was presented Sept. 26 to national media.

It included tours of UAS operated by Dryden, and observing an active UAS control room. Research in safe operation of UAS in the National Airspace was outlined.

The FAA has been charged by Congress to implement a plan for UAS integration into the national airspace by 2015. A major part of developing this capability has been assigned to NASA. Dryden is the host center for this work, under the guidance of the Headquarters Integrated Systems Research Programs of the Aeronautical Directorate. Other involved NASA centers are Ames, Langley and Glen. The effort is budgeted at about $30 million per year. A document on UAS-NAS integration has been prepared. It lists 19 different US profiles and 17 UAS types.

Laurie Grindle, program manager, discussed the Dryden efforts. There are five focus areas of the UAS in NAS project. These are separation assurance; communications; human systems integration; certification; and integrated tests and evaluation.

Separation assurance will assess how the planned Next Generation ATS will perform in mixed UAS, manned aircraft. It will include flight tests with realistic latencies and uncertain trajectories. It will assess function allocations ranging from the present ground controller aircraft separation to an autonomous airborne self separation.

Communications will develop data on appropriate frequency allocations, and candidate test equipment. Glen Research Center and Rockwell Collins have performed successful tests on a prototype radio with extended range.

Human systems integration has developed a research test bed and data base for a ground control station. This is located at Ames Research Center, and staffed by retired air traffic controllers, and uses simulated aircraft data.

Certification is addressing the need for new FAA airworthiness requirements applicable to UAS digital avionics. Development of type designation criteria is also included.

Integrated tests and evaluation will demonstrate and test viability of the developed system. This will include full mission, human-in-the-loop simulations and flight tests.

A major part of the UAS in NAS activities is the Live Virtual Constructive Distributed Environment computer program. Sam Kim, Integrated Test and Evaluation Project Engineer, and Jamie Willhite, LVC Lead Engineer discussed and demonstrated the program. The system includes core connectivity between Dryden and Ames. It provides the opportunity to use geographically dispersed assets. Virtual traffic and human interactions can be studied without collision risks. Complex airspace can be presented while ‘live’ aircraft fly in ìsafeî restricted airspace. Flight tests were completed in May which processed and displayed to the UAS pilot and air traffic controller screens. These used radar and the Automatic Dependent Surveillance ñBroadcast outputs from simulated UAS. Testing from aircraft flying in the controlled airspace above Edwards AFB will be extensively used.




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