Report: NASA should collaborate to research effects of increased drone traffic

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine formed a 12-person committee that featured AAE Professor Daniel DeLaurentis to study potential benefits and challenges associated with advanced aerial mobility.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says NASA should team with the Federal Aviation Administration, industry and academia to research the full effects that increased unpiloted air vehicle traffic could have on society.

The National Academies evaluated the potential benefits and challenges associated with advanced aerial mobility, an emerging technology development that can be simultaneously transformative and disruptive for the nation’s aviation infrastructure and industry.

Daniel DeLaurentis

The study, which was sponsored by NASA, was undertaken by the Committee on Urban Air Mobility Research and Technology that included AAE Professor Daniel DeLaurentis, whose research is focused on the development of foundational methods and tools for addressing problems characterized as system-of-systems in the context of Next-Generation Air Transportation Systems, especially including the presence of revolutionary aerospace vehicles, new business models and alternative policy constructs.

The report, “Advancing Aerial Mobility — A National Blueprint,” found that increased mechanical reliability and lower manufacturing and operating costs for unpiloted aerial vehicles can enable their use in environments currently using ground vehicles for activities such as security patrols, emergency response and cargo transport. This new industry also will challenge today’s airspace monitoring systems and regulatory framework, affirming the need to research how the national airspace could evolve.

The report recommended NASA facilitate collaboration between relevant government agencies and stakeholders, including the FAA, U.S. Department of Defense, state and local governments, industry and academia, to prioritize and execute research on the effects of advanced aerial mobility vehicles and associated infrastructure. Some research should be performed to quantify and mitigate noise impacts, including the associated psychoacoustic and health effects, the report said. Societal impacts on areas such as privacy, intrusion, public health, environmental aspects and inequity also were recommended points of focus by the report for the collaborative research.

“Advanced aerial mobility involves the emergence of transformative and disruptive new airborne technology,” committee chair Nicholas Lappos said in a release from the National Academies. “We believe that the acceptance of these new vehicle operations will depend on important factors such as the public’s perception of their safety, noise and intrusion.”

Cybersecurity is also an essential area for collaboration and research, according to the report. The report said current cybersecurity approaches that rely on threat analysis and information security will not be adequate for future advanced aerial mobility platforms that involve safety-critical operations performed by autonomous systems, such as emergency response.

The committee also called for collaborative research between NASA and the FAA on how best to share air traffic management data so as to introduce advanced aerial mobility traffic into the national airspace system. That new vision of the national airspace necessitates a partnership between NASA and the FAA to manage responsibility and accountability across various stakeholders in the form of a joint regulatory framework, the report said.

Source: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine