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Ames Selected as Winner for 2020 NASA Government Invention of the Year Award
(May 26, 2020)
Ames Research Center was selected by the NASA General Counsel as the Winner of the 2020 NASA Government Invention of the Year (IoY) award for the "Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) to Enable Civilian Low Altitude Goods and Service Delivery by UAS" technology. This winning traffic management system allows UAS to maintain safe and efficient operations for goods and services delivery. UTM is essential to enable accelerated applications of UAS. UTM will accommodate and support all types of UAS operations ranging from disposable with minimalistic avionics capabilities to highly capable UAS.

The invention transforms traditional, human-centric air traffic management into a modern, machine-centric, federated approach. In traditional Air Traffic Management there is a centralized authority that provides services to operators, keeping the airspace safe and accessible. However, in UTM, the Federal Aviation Administration delegates some of that authority to other entities to provide similar services to directly support operators. In addition, those operators may receive services from different service suppliers. These additional services may include low-altitude weather, congestion management, terrain avoidance, route planning, re-rerouting, separation management, and contingency management, etc. to name a few. This novel ecosystem requires a federation of services that are interconnected and communicating via well-defined interfaces and protocols.

The Human Systems Integration Division’s Airspace Operations Lab (AOL) plays a vital role in NASA’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) research. Within NASA's UTM team, the AOL leads three of the project’s research focus areas:
-concepts of operations and use-cases
-simulation and laboratory test bed
-user interface technologies and operational procedures

The AOL’s UTM team has been collaborating with industry leaders, academia, and government groups to develop requirements to safely and efficiently integrate low-altitude UAS operations into the National Airspace (NAS), the results of which were tested in six different real-world flight demonstrations.  Although the UTM project ends in FY20, the AOL’s expertise in this research has positioned them in critical roles for other projects that leverage UTM concepts and technologies, such as the Advanced Air Mobility project.

To learn more about UTM and the AOL, and , please visit- https://hsi.arc.nasa.gov/groups/AOL/research/pastresearch.php#UTM
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Curator: Phil So
NASA Official: Jessica Nowinski
Last Updated: March 18, 2024