Deseret UAS Partnership Awarded Highly Competitive NASA & FAA Operations

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced they have awarded the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) Technical Capabilities Level (TLC) 4 operation to the State of Nevada. The State of Nevada UAS Test Site, under the leadership of the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), was selected to execute the NASA UTM TCL 4 operation through an intensely competitive process with six other states. Deseret UAS will participate in the operation through its strong collaborative partnership with NIAS. The partners will demonstrate the capability to safely fly multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) (i.e.- drones) in an urban environment.

“We are very excited to partner with NASA on such an important program that will have a significant innovative impact on the global UAS Industry,” said Dr. Chris Walach, Executive/Senior Director of the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site, NIAS and the NIAS Unmanned Aviation Safety Center of Excellence. “We believe UTM is absolutely essential to making the airways safe and deconflicting manned and unmanned aviation.”

In addition, United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Elaine Chao has announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded the State of Nevada the UAS UTM Pilot Program (UPP). NIAS will similarly execute this operation, with Deseret UAS playing a key role. The UPP is a milestone pilot program to safely integrate drones into the National Airspace System (NAS) while creating a shared information network that can be used for future federal rule-making.

These watershed operations position the partners as global leaders in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and signal a major development in the advancement of the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) industry. NIAS, Deseret UAS, and other partners will demonstrate the ability to fly UAVs beyond the operator’s line of sight over a high-density, urban environment and how to integrate those unmanned aircraft operations safely into the (NAS). Both operations require the team to overcome obstacles, including variable urban weather patterns and buildings that obstruct Global Positioning System (GPS) signals.

“The significance of this moment cannot be overstated,” said Deseret UAS Board Chair Shawn Milne. “We are at an inflection point in the history of human transportation. Deseret UAS is helping to lead the way in developing the capabilities necessary to revolutionize mobility. The NASA TLC-4 and FAA UPP programs will allow us to showcase Utah’s unparalleled technical expertise.”

Deseret UAS’ technical team is comprised of Utah State University’s AggieAirand Utah-based company, Fortem Technologies. AggieAir’s highly-skilled researchers have pioneered UAS industry innovations for more than a decade. AggieAir’s aircraft, both the BluJay fixed wing and multi-rotor are two of only fourteen aircraft selected for the test scenarios from the hundreds of potential aircraft submitted by other applicants. “AggieAir will continue to make history through these groundbreaking projects,” said AggieAir Director Dr. Cal Coopmans. “We pride ourselves on our ability to apply cutting-edge research in a real-world environment that has direct, tangible benefits to society.”

Fortem Technologies will provide radar capabilities for both programs to track the UAVs while in flight. Fortem’s AI-enabled SkyDome software and TrueView radar digitize airspace, making it possible to ensure safe urban corridors and to protect infrastructure, venues, borders and cities against rogue drones. This digitization is the platform needed to make drone package delivery and the safe transport of people a reality. “NASA TCL- 4 objectives are only achievable if every cubic kilometer of urban airspace is visible and proven safe and secure for people flying beyond visual line of sight,” said Fortem CEO Timothy Bean. “Fortem Technologies makes this possible by digitizing the airspace so that cooperative and non-cooperative drone traffic can be differentiated, assessed for threats, and certified for public safety.”

While Reno, Nevada is currently the site for both the NASA TCL-4 and FAA UPP programs, Deseret UAS plans to conduct a similar demonstration this spring in Ogden, Utah. “Utah has always been at the forefront of technical innovations that improve our residents’ lives and the state’s investment in Deseret UAS is evidence of that,” said Ginger Chinn, managing director of Urban and Rural Business Services for the Utah’s Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “We whole-heartedly embrace unmanned aircraft technologies and are proactively developing a plan to build the aerial infrastructure needed for these innovations to flourish.”

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