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NASA Glenn is working on a system to prevent drone collisions
Drones are one of the popular tech items on many wish lists this holiday season
Story by BRIAN BULL


 
NASA Glenn is helping develop a system help prevent mid-air collisions between drones and manned aircraft
Courtesy of Flickr user ARS Electronica
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Among the popular tech items on holiday wish lists are drones, remotely controlled devices that have the FAA concerned about air safety.  As Ohio Public Radio, WCPN’s Brian Bull reports, officials at NASA Glenn are helping develop a system help prevent mid-air collisions between drones and manned aircraft.

LISTEN: NASA's drone project

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Jim Griner works with NASA Glenn’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems project.  He shows off a plane with a prototype radio system being developed with NASA Armstrong in California, as well as tech companies Honeywell and Rockwell Collins. 

“It’s mainly a system for the unmanned aircraft to send information about other aircraft around it through our communications link that we’ve developed here and utilize that link to send that target information to the ground," where the drone’s operator is based, hundreds or even thousands of miles away. The drone pilot can then maneuver the unmanned craft out of harm’s way.

Researchers are now working on the fifth and final prototype of the system, which they expect to have ready for FAA review in 2017.

Flyer beware
Until then, pilots are advised to be wary of drones. Chopper pilot T.J. Bencin runs a helicopter business that flies out of Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport. He had an in-air close call with a drone last summer, near the airfield.

“Literally just passed off my left side, 75, 100 yards.  If that would’ve contacted the main rotor system, or the tail rotor system --had it gone through the windshield -- it would’ve been ugly.  It would’ve been very bad.”

The FAA says commercial pilots have reported more than 650 sightings of drones through early August, nearly three times the amount reported last year.  And it’s estimated at least 700,000 Americans own drones, with a million more expected under Christmas trees this winter.

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