Demonstrations of the UAS [traffic management] Pilot Program (UPP) have shown that multiple, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations can be conducted safely at altitudes below 400 feet in airspace where air traffic services are not provided, the FAA and NASA announced this week. The results from the UPP will provide a proof of concept for UAS traffic management capabilities currently in research and development, and the basis for initial deployment of UTM capabilities by the FAA. In January, the FAA selected three UPP test sites: the Mid Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) at Virginia Tech; the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) in Grand Forks, North Dakota; and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The first demonstration was conducted by the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) at Virginia Tech on June 13 and consisted of separate flights that delivered packages, studied wildlife, surveyed a corn field and covered a court case for TV. Conducted near an airport, all four flight plans were submitted through a service supplier and received approval to launch as planned. During the demonstration, an EMS helicopter pilot submitted a request for a UAS Volume Reservation (UVR), an alert used to notify nearby drone operators of the emergency. Drone deliveries were re-routed until the UVR was completed. Each operation was conducted without conflict.
The second demonstration, which involved the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS), took place in Grand Forks on July 10. This demonstration was also near an airport and consisted of photo flights, location scouting, and post-storm power line inspections. During one of these flights, a drone pilot received a UVR alert for a transiting medevac helicopter and landed before the alert became active.
The third demonstration, which involved the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), took place in Las Vegas on August 1 and involved golf course and real estate survey and photo flights and the scan of a nearby lake. All three operators accessed UAS Facility Maps and worked with a UAS Service Supplier (USS) to receive the proper approvals to conduct their flights. During the demonstration, a fire erupted at one of the golf course clubhouses and a helicopter was sent to contain the fire. First responders submitted a request to a USS to create a UVR. The UVR information was shared with the FAA and public portals that notified each of the UAS operators that the firefighting helicopter was on its way to their flying area. The operators were notified and either landed or continued flights at safe distances.