Rockwell Collins and NASA testing use of unmanned aerial systems in national airspace

S-3 Viking
S-3 Viking

Rockwell Collins and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have scheduled risk reduction tests that will eventually enable unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to safely operate in the national airspace.

“Routine integration of sizeable numbers of UAS into the national airspace system is a challenging task,” said Troy Brunk, vice president and general manager of Airborne Solutions for Rockwell Collins. “This technology will provide the critical communications link for UAS pilots on the ground to safely and securely operate their remotely piloted vehicles in flight even though they are many miles apart.”

The NASA-owned Lockheed S-3 Viking and the University of Iowa Operator Performance Laboratory’s Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft will serve as surrogates for unmanned aerial vehicles during two phases of testing. The first part of the test will demonstrate the ability of unmanned aircraft to hand off communications from one tower to another.

The second part of the test will demonstrate the ability of a single tower to communicate to multiple aircraft. The waveform being developed can support multiple channels from a single ground transmitter, enabling multiple aircraft to be simultaneously served, according to local operational needs.

This project, co-funded by Rockwell Collins, develops a non-proprietary data link waveform that is planned for release as a public resource. It will help both the industry and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop an appropriate set of rules and requirements for reliable unmanned flight operations in the national airspace system.