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University of Nevada helps NASA in drone air traffic concepts

Nevada is one of a handful of states in the U.S. that can help NASA when it comes to air traffic control.

The University of Nevada, Reno collaborates with NASA to explore research concepts around air traffic control for drones. Their NUANCE lab took part in the largest test yet on Tuesday, where 24 drones flew at several locations around the country.

"What we're testing right now is the ability to tell NASA that we'd like to file a flight plan, and then once we are able to do that, we take off and we can confirm to NASA where the aircraft is and where it's going," said Richard Kelley, the Chief Engineer for Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center at UNR.

This testing will allow NASA and the Nevada FAA test site to explore research concepts around air traffic control for drones.

"This is important to NASA for a couple reasons. This is one of the largest tests of the UTM research concept to date, it is the most geographically dispersed with the entire continental United States participating, and it's an opportunity for NASA to work with the test sites," said Kelley.

This site at the Reno-Stead Airport is one of six in the entire nation.

Students from the university can also work alongside with the pros from NASA.

"There's only six test sites, and being in undergrad and getting to work on this system and get to integrate your stuff into NASA's system, it's going to open up a lot of opportunities in the future," said Camille Bourquin, a student.

The goal is to build systems to enable the safer use of low-altitude airspace where drones and other aircraft can operate together.

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