With so many instances of amateur or commercial unmanned aerial vehicles causing concern for traditional airplanes, the government is in the process of creating an air traffic control system specifically for drones.
A Novadem NX 110 drone flies during a presentaion at a firefighter rescue centre in Les Pennes-Mirabeau, southern France, on August 28, 2014. The Novadem NX 110 drone will be used as a surveillance drone by the firefighters in the Bouches-du-Rhone region to survey wildfires, floodings and rescue operations. NASA is also working on developing a system that will help control lower altitude air traffic as drone use becomes more prevalent. (BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images)
While the Federal Aviation Administration is working on regulations to govern the use of government, commercial and private drone use in the United States, NASA is leading the charge when it comes to traffic control, according to the New York Times.
The Times reported that researchers at NASA's Moffett Field in California are creating a system that would keep tabs on both weather and drone traffic to help ensure the safest of flights for both these unmanned vehicles and the manned aircraft.
“One at a time you can make them work and keep them safe,” Parimal Kopardekar, researcher developing the program, told the Times. “But when you have a number of them in operation in the same airspace, there is no infrastructure to support it.”
While there are currently restrictions on drone use in various areas that could impact airplane traffic, there have been dozens of instances where drones have flown into restricted airspace. One of the more recent cases occurred earlier this month near Los Angeles International Airport. The Los Angeles Times reported that the hobbyist drone spotted by a jet pilot was flying at 4,000 feet, a height exceeding the FAA's current regulations, and within a close distance of the airport itself.
Earlier this year, several FAA testing sites for UAVs around the country became operational. According to the Times, the FAA plans to release proposed regulations for small drones within this year.
Under the current FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, there are only a few rules by which small drones flown for recreational use have to abide. It's in the emerging commercial applications of drones that regulations become more sticky.