Major drone traffic management pilot program successfully concludes flight tests


The FAA, NASA and several industrial partners have successfully concluded real-world testing of unmanned traffic management systems for integrating drones into airspace in the USA.

The operational tests were part of a  program called the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management Pilot Program (UPP) launched in 2017 and were conducted at sites in Nevada, Dakota and Virginia.

The UPP aims to help determine the services and capabilities UTM must provide to support extended and enhanced drone operations in the future.

GE Aviation’s AiRXOS was one of several industry partners involved in the UPP program has also participated in NASA’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) demonstration programs over the last two years. Kenneth Stewart, CEO of AiRXOS said, “Enterprise-level interoperability between systems is fundamental, as are advanced operations, and the integration of notifications – all key components of the program that AiRXOS helped drive.

“We are proud to have been the only organization to participate at all three sites and look forward to working closely with these partners on the next steps in the process of implementing the FAA’s results.”

According to GE Aviation, the company was the only industry partner selected to participate at more than one test site for the program, while its Air Mobility Platform the only system that supported internal and external flight operators while demonstrating live UTM operations at all sites.

The testing and evaluation of the technologies at the three different sites covered areas including flight planning, communications, aircraft separation, and weather services for drones which will initially operate under 400ft.

The sites used as FAA-approved UAS Test Sites for UPP were:

  • Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems Test Site
  • Northern Plains UAS Test Site, North Dakota
  • Virginia Tech, Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) Test Site

“These tests marked a critical step towards the implementation of UTM, which is key for drones to reach their tremendous commercial potential,” said Mark Blanks, Director of the Virginia Tech MAAP. “The leading role in the development and rollout of this technology will be played by industry, and so the ability to work with great partners like AiRXOS was essential to the success of our tests at Virginia Tech, and helped ensure that the data and insights will be meaningful and actionable to the FAA.”

“The Northern Plains UAS Test Site was excited to have AiRXOS on the team for the FAA UTM Pilot Program efforts,” said Chris Theisen, Director of Research and Development for NPUASTS. “Their operations were professional and successfully achieved the goals and objectives of the project.”

“AiRXOS is an important partner to NIAS and the State of Nevada for safely advancing UTM and innovative technology combined,” said Dr. Chris Walach, Executive Director, NIAS and the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site. “Their UTM platform is highly functional, easily integrates various drone technologies and sensors, and does what the FAA expects from their various airspace providers. We look forward to working with AiRXOS on other innovative projects or operations.”

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About Author


Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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