Flying drones safely

  • By Nanyang Technological University
  • Posted 7 months ago
  • Reading Time : a few minutes

Traffic management solutions will allow hundreds of drones to fly efficiently and safely at any one time in Singapores airspace

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) are studying ways to allow hundreds of UAVs to fly efficiently and safely at any one time.

The aim is to develop a traffic management system for UAVs consisting designated air-lanes and blocks, similar to how cars on the roads have traffic lights and lanes. Advanced technologies that will be developed include smart and safe routing, detect- and-avoid systems, and traffic management to coordinate air traffic.

Named Traffic Management of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, this initiative is spearheaded by NTU’s Air Traffic Management Research Institute (ATMRI). Leading the research programme are NTU Professor Low Kin Huat, an expert in robotics and UAVs from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), and ATMRI Senior Research Fellow, Mr Mohamed Faisal Bin Mohamed Salleh.

To ensure that traffic is regulated across the whole of Singapore, a possible solution is the establishment of coordinating stations for UAV traffic. These stations can then track all the UAVs that are in the air, schedule the traffic flow, monitor their speeds and ensure a safe separation between the UAVs. Various scenarios will be tested out using computer simulations and software to optimise UAV traffic routes, so as to minimise traffic congestions.

Safety standards will also be proposed. One such strategy is to use the current infrastructure such as open fields for take-off and landing and having UAVs fly above buildings and HDB flats, which can act as emergency landing sites to minimise risk to the public.

Currently, restricted airspace and zones where UAV operations are prohibited have already been identified, such as near airports and military facilities. The researchers will test out several concepts, such as geofencing. The idea is to set up virtual fences where UAVs can be automatically routed around a restricted geographical location such as the airport.

Another important research area will be collision detection. UAVs will need to have sensors that enable detection and avoidance of collision with another UAV. This will allow UAVs to follow a set of actions to avoid any mid-air incidents, such as flying above, below, or around other UAVs.

Credit: Nanyang Technological University

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