NASA Issues RFI for UAS Challenge

By Caroline Rees / 18 Oct 2012
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NASA is considering the creation of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) challenge with the goal of finding solutions to problems involved in integrating drones into the National Airspace System.

The challenge would require competing UAS vehicles to maintain separation from traffic while operating in congested airspace and under a range of conditions and failure modes. Competitors would use and demonstrate sense-and-avoid technologies compatible with NextGen systems. Winners would receive a monetary prize up to 1.5 million dollars as the result of winning two parts of the challenge. NASA says competing aircraft would need to display reliable and accurate four-dimensional trajectories. But the agency isn’t prepared to move forward just yet.

NASA has issued draft rules and is seeking input prior to Nov. 16, 2012. It has not yet decided to commit to the challenge. As proposed, NASA is suggesting a two-part challenge separated by roughly one year.

The first part of the challenge would focus on safe airspace operations, system failure compensation and skills development that would prepare teams for the second part of the challenge. Unmanned aircraft would need to demonstrate positive control in space and time (four-dimensional trajectories) — they would need to demonstrate the ability to be where they are suppose to be, when they are supposed to be there. And lastly, competitors would need to exhibit “the ability to interact with Air Traffic Management in a clear, concise, and timely manner” throughout operations.

The second part of the challenge would test the ability of unmanned aerial vehicles to perform with both cooperative and non-cooperative air traffic, communicate with ATC under lost link conditions “and operate safely when GPS is unavailable.”

NASA has issued a Request For Information (RFI), the purpose of which is threefold:

  1. to determine the UAS community’s level of interest in competing in this Challenge,
  2. to gather feedback on the draft rules that are being released in association with the RFI, and
  3. to identify potential partners interested in (a) providing a venue for the flight competition, (b) assisting NASA in managing and executing this Challenge which may include qualification of potential competitors.

The RFI, along with rules and further details can be found here.

Posted by Caroline Rees Caroline co-founded Unmanned Systems Technology and has been at the forefront of the business ever since. With a Masters Degree in marketing Caroline has her finger on the pulse of all things unmanned and is committed to showcasing the very latest in unmanned technical innovation. Connect & Contact