Amazon and NASA Are Working on Drone Air Traffic Control Systems

May 8, 2018

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Two giants in their own fields are joining forces to develop a newly forming space. Amazon and NASA have both established outposts in France to develop air traffic control systems specifically for drones.

NASA has already been spearheading efforts to create a drone air-traffic-control system (ATC), similar to the FAA’s ATC system — signing agreements with Amazon and Google to develop technology to facilitate this new system. Drones have had a history of run-ins not only with each other but also with commercial aircraft that have proved for some hairy encounters. As more drones take to the skies, it will be important to have a system that helps them avoid collisions.

Both Amazon and NASA have teams in France working on software for systems to manage drones in the air.  NASA has set up in Toulouse, home to Airbus headquarters, and is working with drone maker Delair-Tech.

“Coordinating traffic between drones, as well as with planes, it’s the end-goal that’s mobilizing a lot of people across the industry,” Michael de Lagarde, CEO of Delair-Tech told Bloomberg. “Today, we’re collectively at level zero of traffic management, we just segment the air space.”

France was one of the first countries to regulate commercial drone use and its laws are less burdensome than the US’ when it comes to regulating unmanned aerial vehicles. That allows Delair-Tech, and NASA and Amazon, to test long distance flights and its air-traffic control system.

Amazon has established a lab in Paris to test its own air-traffic-control system that will eventually control the drones that deliver goods from its warehouses to customers. The software includes highly detailed maps that include temporary objects that could prove as obstacles — like construction cranes, weather and birds.

Amazon already has multiple Prime Air drones, although they are still being tested and not in widespread use. It’s possible limited package delivery via drone will begin this summer

H/T: Bloomberg

Featured image by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images.

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