NASA and Verizon to Monitor Drones from Towers

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NASA and Verizon have teamed up to develop technology that will monitor America’s growing fleet of civilian and commercial drones from its network of towers, The Guardian reported. 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.” The project is currently underway at NASA’s Ames Research Center where they are planning the first tests of an air traffic control system for drones this summer. Verizon will introduce a concept for using cell coverage for data, navigation, surveillance and tracking of drones by 2017, The Guardian reported. According to the documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the purpose of the agreement is to “jointly explore if cell towers and communications could possibly support Unmannned Aerial Systems (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) for communications and surveillance of UAS at low altitudes.” (The Guardian) The drones would need to have on-board sensors to navigate and avoid obstacles in the event the connection fails or if they fly to far from a cell tower. “One of Verizon’s advantages is that it is the largest provider of wireless communications in the US, with an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 towers across the country and the most extensive high-speed 4G LTE network,” The Guardian explained.

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