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How NASA Plans to Open 'Air Highways' for Drones

Published: September 10, 2014
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Source: Motherboard

If Amazon and Google are going to take their drone delivery operations public, what's going to ensure they do it safely? Air highways and specialized drone corridors designed by NASA scientists, apparently.

Even if the Federal Administration Administration isn't sold on the idea of commercial drones flying throughout the country, NASA is.

The agency has quietly been working on an air traffic control system for drones, and its head scientist says that he's pretty sure he can make it safe for the machines to fly in low altitude airspace. In fact, he envisions specialized highways, "lanes," and even corridors for commercial drones to operate in.

"We might have highways in the sky, with a bunch of [drones] going in a similar direction," Parimal Kopardekar, the NASA scientist leading the project, told me. "It's going to be a function of density and demand in a particular airspace, but if lots of them are going in one direction, they might have that corridor to themselves."

Image: NASA

The way Kopardekar talks about drones couldn't be any more different from how the FAA has spoken about them in my experiences with the agency; Kopardekar sees the technology as having a bright future and spoke frankly about the potential benefits of drones. 

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