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NASA's air traffic control system for drones is progressing nicely

Billy Steele

Last month, the FAA announced regulations for piloting drones, requiring you to keep your eyes on the unmanned aircraft at all times. Looking to help ease those rules, Excelis is developing an air traffic control system for drones, and it's nearly ready for trials at the Federal Aviation Administration's approved test sites. The low-altitude monitoring system keeps tabs on the compact aircraft, which would, in theory, allow them to be used remotely to deliver packages or perform inspections. The company has been working with NASA to build its software, leveraging a data stream it already beams to the FAA with 650 ground stations to track manned aircraft. Current tech will be updated to include low-flying drone locations, speeding up the timeline for the requisite trials. Excelis plans to begin testing with the FAA later this summer to show real-time terrain, weather and airspace info for pilots on tablets and laptops.

If you'll recall, NASA first revealed its plans for an air traffic control system for drones back in September, working with a number of companies to build a system that'll monitor UAVs at altitudes under 400 feet. The FAA still has final approval with the system is finished, and will determine whether federal, state or local governments control it and if companies can pay to employ the tools.

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