The future of the cold chain: NASA launches final test of urban drone traffic management

With MSD and Softbox actively exploring drone delivery, it's interesting to see how NASA urban drone traffic tests could support future commercial adoption

Earlier this year, we shared the work MSD and Softbox had been doing to develop cold chain drone delivery to be used in disaster relief.

With medical drone deliveries being piloted in a number of regions, from Rwanda to Chicago, and the commercial sector developing rapidly, we are likely to see more companies exploring the possibility of integrating drones to their cold chain.

NASA have pushed the sector forward with their latest announcement in regards to urban traffic testing fro drone delivery.


NASA pushes forward commercial drone development

NASA has announced they will start testing drone traffic management systems next month in Reno, Nevada and Corpus Christi, Texas. This marks the final stage of a four year series of different demonstrations of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).


The agency is hoping to develop further capabilities for the management of drone traffic in urban areas. With the result of these flight demonstrations intended to be used to inform future rules, policies and traffic management procedures when operating drones over populated areas.

Ronald Johnson, NASA’s UAS Traffic Management project manager said “this phase represents the most complicated demonstration of advanced UAS operating in a demanding urban environment that will have been tested to date”.

It is hoped that these tests will help the commercial drone industry understand the challenges posed by flying in an urban environment. With the commercial market for drone delivery growing and attracting interest, more use cases have been emerging for this technology. Many see the usefulness of this technology for delivery of medicines at speed in urban areas, over difficult to reach regions and as part of co-ordinated responses to natural disasters.

During the tests, NASA will be looking at the efficiency of multiple types of technology, including; flight information management systems, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, collision avoidance and automated safe landing technologies.  

Mike Sanders, acting executive director of the Lone Star UAS Centre, who will be leading the management systems in Texas said “this series of tests is a critical step in enabling the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems within an urban environment”.

If this final round of testing proves to be successful, it will offer a new depth of information for the public and private sector on how to manage the future use of drones in their cities.