|Air Traffic Control drone|
The rules laid out by the FAA are actually rather reasonable, when you look at the state of drone aircraft. There isn’t currently any system for managing swarms of drones, which can be quite hazardous if they start colliding in high-traffic areas of the sky. The FAA’s solution is to essentially ban remote operation for commercial use, but maybe Symphony RangeVue could offer an alternative.
In order for Symphony RangeVue to work, a region would need to have a network of small Exelis towers that receive signals from nearby drone aircraft. Of course, that means drones have to actually emit an ADS-B tracking signal like manned aircraft, which they currently do not. That’s something drone manufacturers would need to start doing. It would mean increased power usage, but that might be a small price to pay. There’s also an infrastructure cost in getting these non-FAA tracking stations set up.
The data from the towers would be combined with radar and surveillance data, and shipped off to the cloud-based Symphony RangeVue system. From there, it can be disseminated to users on computers or tablets, allowing them to keep tabs on the busy state of drone traffic. The location information could be overlaid on maps with terrain, restricted areas, and flight paths. This same data feed could also be routed to the FAA in order to make sure drone pilots are following the rules laid out — with the exception of line-of-sight, which would need to be altered for this system to be feasible.
There’s no timeline for deployment of this system, but having the backing of NASA is a good sign. This is exactly the kind of system companies like Amazon could take advantage of to get drone delivery services up and running. The FAA’s drone rules are still a draft, though, so there’s time to get the kinks worked out and still convince the regulators drones can be tracked safely.