Google, Amazon offer different UAS traffic management ideas

By Patrick C. Miller | August 05, 2015

Amazon and Google outlined plans on how their respective unmanned aerial systems (UAS) will operate commercially below 500 feet during last week’s Unmanned Traffic Management Convention at the NASA Ames Research Center.

At the event in Mountain View, California, sponsored by NASA and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), Dave Vos—leader of Google[x]’s Project Wing—and Gur Kimchi—cofounder of Amazon’s Prime Air unmanned delivery unit—offered their views on managing retail deliveries by UAS.

Vos said that Google will rely on communications using cell phone industry technology to enable the online filing of UAS flight plans that can be quickly approved and altered if necessary.

“Let’s work with the cell phone industry,” Vos said, calling it an opportunity to move into the third dimension. “Join us, you can make a ton of money and so can we, and we can have fun doing it.”

Google proposes that UAS flight plans will be sent to an airspace service provider that will analyze them for potential conflicts, either approving the plans or suggesting alternatives. Vos said small UAS would be equipped with inexpensive Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) devices showing their locations.

“If I know where I am and I know where everyone else is and I know what they’re going to do, then we won’t run into each other,” Vos explained.

Under Amazon’s proposed traffic management system, airspace would be segregated for small UAS below 400 feet. A high-speed corridor between 400 and 200 feet would be reserved for package delivery and other services.

Kimchi said such a system would be safer. Small UAS could fly “low and slow” under 200 feet, but faster and beyond line of sight in the high-speed corridor. He proposed a no-fly zone buffer for all aircraft between 400 and 500 feet. Above that, larger aircraft would operate.

Under the plan Kimchi proposed, airspace around airports would remain restricted, UAS would face no height restrictions in remote, low-risk areas. Such areas would need to be certified by the government, he said.

While noting that Amazon supports the FAA’s satellite-based NextGen traffic management system, Kimchi said they believe their proposal is best for small UAS.

Amazon’s plan also envisions four types of aircraft: basic (radio controlled), good, better and best. Good aircraft would have an Internet-connected ground station to monitor air traffic, but the UAS operator would have responsibility for avoiding other aircraft. 


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