NASA started flight testing a prototype data link radio from Rockwell Collins to support the planned introduction of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the U.S. National Airspace System. The agency said it conducted laboratory tests of a radio delivered to the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland in February, and then performed flight tests in May and June using a Lockheed S-3 Viking research aircraft.
The prototype radio serves as a platform to test operations at certain frequencies with specific radio waveforms for command and control of a remotely piloted aircraft. Last December, NASA researchers conducted a number of “channel characterization” flights with the S-3 over Ohio and Pennsylvania to assess how waveforms behave at the L- and C-band frequencies assigned to civil UAS operations. A trailer with a 60-foot deployable antenna mast transmitted signals from the ground.
NASA said it expects delivery of a second generation test radio in September. Plans call for a final prototype design to be delivered and tested in 2015 or 2016.