For the past few months, NASA has been working on a plan an air traffic control system for drones that will ensure that the autonomous flying machines don’t crash into things. That plan has now expanded to include a system that will make it so that people can fly drones remotely as well and Exelis, one of the companies working with NASA on this system, is going to unveil its solution later this month thatFAA’s existing radar surveillance system.
U.S. aerospace company Exelis Inc (XLS.N) is close to unveiling a low-altitude surveillance system for drones, the latest sign of how a “highway in the sky” is likely to evolve. The system, whose existence has not been previously reported, shows how Exelis and other companies are racing to create technology that enables drones to safely fly over long distances to do everything from inspections of remote pipelines to surveys of crops or delivery of packages. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration recently proposed regulations that largely ban unmanned aircraft systems from many of those tasks by requiring that remote pilots keep the drones in sight. This is giving foreign companies the chance to leap ahead of the U.S. in figuring out how to best exploit drone technology. But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is working with Exelis and other companies, universities and government agencies, to develop an air traffic management system that could persuade the FAA to allow flights beyond the line of sight, provided the operator is using such a tracking system.