February 2014

How the FAA can test real-time disruptions at drone test sites – a BoldIQ byline in Government Product

The FAA will have its hands full as it begins rigorous testing of unmanned drones at six recently announced testing sites. These sites are faced with managing the dense system of drones among themselves as well as other aircraft in the flying environment. This setup will require extensive logistical planning and coordination between agencies.

The billion-dollar future of the drone industry relies on flying expensive “test subjects” around the sky to best prepare for safe integration into U.S. airspace. This large task needs to have a structured, and yet rapidly adoptable and modifiable plan, to best utilize the time and resources involved in testing. When managed testing is over, the need for a plan grows exponentially. An “air space grid” is one way to manage this mandated drone testing. For safety, control and efficiency in the flight zone, researchers could create a grid in the sky — an intricate four-dimensional mesh of available and optional flight paths — for drones to fly through and test real-world scenarios. Researchers can then apply real-time dynamic optimization for drones to utilize the grid in a safe and efficient manner. Additionally, test sites will need to survey the capabilities of drones in the real-world environment. Unpredictable disruptions like extreme weather impacts, unexpected aircraft in the grid and malfunctions must be addressed as these changes to the operating environment can create chaos in the sky. When disruptions arise, real-time adjustments will need to be made by unmanned aircraft, just like manned aircraft.

Leveraging Big Data that is already available to optimize operations in real time during testing and beyond is an effective way to avoid collisions and manage a constantly changing environment. This arrangement can also ensure that the drones are utilized to the best of their capabilities. Optimizing data can make responding to and adjusting drone usage in the real world possible. In addition, it gives the FAA a jump-start on a complex regulatory and operating program.

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