NASA flies UAVs BVLOS for air taxi research

January 23, 2024  - By
Image: NASA / David Bowman

Image: NASA / David Bowman

NASA researchers at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, have successfully flown multiple UAVs beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) with no visual observer. The UAVs dodged one another and successfully maneuvered around obstacles before safely landing, the agency said. NASA conducted the tests to help researchers someday create autonomous, self-piloted helicopters that could carry passengers and cargo through busy aerospace.

Researchers used multiple Alta 8 UAVs loaded with software designed to enable autonomous flights. Although monitors observed the flights from a remote-control room at Langley, the UAVs successfully operated BVLOS.

NASA is also testing elements of autonomy using helicopters. They are designed to contribute towards the development of autonomous helicopters that can take off and land from “vertiports,” and transport passengers and cargo over both short and long distances.

The experiments are part of the agency’s Advanced Air Mobility Mission (AAM), which is designed to enable safe autonomous flight and integrate newly developed vehicles into the national airspace. The mission will “set the stage for a flourishing industry” of electric air taxis and UAVs by 2030, NASA says on its AAM website.

NASA will transfer the technology created during this project to the public to ensure industry manufacturers can access the software while designing their vehicles.

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