UTM test Nevada drone

FAA grants nearly $1 million to fund UTM test in Nevada

The FAA just committed nearly $1 million to conduct UTM test research at the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS).

NIAS is an agency designated to manage the state’s drone test site, which was chosen as one of just a handful of FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Sites around the nation to study future drone research.

And one of the biggest variables in need of studying is UTM — short for unmanned traffic management, which is essentially air traffic control for drones.

That research just got a big boost. The FAA awarded $848,685 towards an overall Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) contract of $1.79 million, intended “to demonstrate and validate UAS Traffic Management (UTM) technology in coordination with the NIAS test site.”

The contract will be executed by three entities: SwitchANRA Technologies and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS).

Switch, a technology infrastructure corporation headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, will be responsible for the technology infrastructure. ANRA, which provides end-to-end drone operations and traffic management solutions for drone operators and airspace managers, will conduct demonstrations and validation of new drone systems. And NIAS will evaluate performance thresholds, mitigation strategies, operational constraints, and system requirements for scalable operation of commercial small drones.

The project will essentially simulate thousands of simultaneous UAS flights to test UTM at a “level that has never been tested before, in order to create the most realistic UTM and BVLOS ecosystem ever attempted.”

Nevada has long been executing UTM test projects since it was designated as one of the FAA’s test sites in 2013. A lot of testing has been done in Reno, Nevada, which is also one of the 10 state, local and tribal governments selected by the FAA to be a part of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program.  That program pairs governments with private companies to test complicated drone flights, such as drone delivery. The NIAS has already done significant UTM testing with NASA.

ANRA, which is also known for its facilitation of drone deliveries in India via food delivery app Swiggy, says the FAA contract will allow them to conduct UTM tests “at unprecedented scale,” providing insight into redundancy, bandwidth, cost estimates, compute, and data storage requirements to operate UTM safely and securely on a national scale — of course, in a scalable and cost-effective manner.

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