NASA releases report on strategic deconfliction following flight tests at UAS test sites

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has published a report on Strategic Deconfliction Performance, detailing the results and analysis arising from the agency’s UTM Technical Capability Level 4 demonstration carried out in 2019. Among issues addressed, the report examines how well unmanned operations responded to new constraints in the airspace, and how effectively they deconflict with pop-up priority operations.

A key feature of Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) is the ability to provide operators the means to strategically deconflict operations from others in the airspace through the digital exchange of information via supporting services. Through this approach, the 4-D operation volumes that encompass the intent of operators in a given area are discoverable and can be used for airspace awareness as well as planning conflict free operations that account for and avoid other operations. In the NASA UTM concept, strategic deconfliction is the first layer of three in the overall conflict management model as set out in the ICAO 2005 scheme.

NASA tested the ability to perform strategic deconfliction, handle priority operations and establish constraints using the UTM system. Live, distributed flight tests were conducted across Technical Capability Levels (TCLs) that culminated with a set of complex tests performed as part of TCL4. This flight test involved two FAA-designated UAS test sites building teams to collaborate with NASA’s UTM project on the execution of several detailed, small UAS scenarios in urban environments.

The data collection and analysis resulted in several key messages including those relating to UVR warning time; operator understanding; and unanticipated restrictions.

According to the report, the MOPs for strategic deconfliction provide insight into how a future operational UTM System may aid in the safe separation of beyond visual-line-of-sight operations of sUAS. With further efforts on protocol development and standardization, the USS-USS communications related to strategic deconfliction will be vital to enabling safe access to orders of magnitude more operations than are possible in today’s environment.

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