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'NASA flies large unmanned aircraft in public airspace'

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

NASA has for the first time successfully flown its large remotely-piloted Ikhana aircraft in the public without a safety chase airplane, the US space agency said today.

"This historic flight moves the US one step closer to normalising unmanned aircraft operations in the used by commercial and private pilots," NASA said in a statement.

Flying these large remotely-piloted aircraft over the US opens the doors to services such as monitoring and fighting forest fires to providing new emergency search and rescue operations, according to NASA.

The technology in this aircraft could, at some point, be scaled down for use in other general aircraft, it said.

"This is a huge milestone for our Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National System project team," said Ed Waggoner, NASA's Integrated Systems Program director.

Flights of large craft like Ikhana, have traditionally required a safety chase aircraft to follow the unmanned aircraft as it travels through the same airspace used by commercial aircraft.

The US Federal Administration (FAA) granted NASA special permission to conduct this flight under the authority of a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization on March 30.

The certificate permitted Ikhana's pilot to rely on the latest Detect and Avoid technology, enabling the remote pilot on the ground to see and avoid other aircraft during the flight.

The flight took off from in and entered controlled air space almost immediately.

Ikhana flew into the Class-A airspace, where commercial airliners fly, just west of Edwards at an altitude of about 20,000 feet.

During the return flight, the pilot began a gentle descent over the city of Tehachapi, California, into Class E airspace - about 10,000 feet -where pilots fly.

The pilot initiated an approach into at 5,000 feet, coordinating in real time with air traffic controllers at the airport.

After successfully executing all of these milestones, the aircraft exited the public airspace and returned to its base at Armstrong.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, June 13 2018. 15:05 IST