AT&T Joins NASA UTM Effort
AT&T file photo

AT&T has announced that, in conjunction with NASA, it is researching traffic management solutions for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

The goal is an Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) solution that supports the safe and highly secure operation of drones in the national airspace (NAS).

AT&T has been working with NASA and other companies to make UAS flight path monitoring, flight planning, navigation, surveillance and tracking safer, focusing on the role of wireless networking and other advanced technologies. AT&T brings expertise in networking, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, identity management and cybersecurity to the effort.

“Working with NASA and others, we are designing the management system for a new frontier in aviation,” said Mike Leff, Vice President, Civilian, AT&T Global Public Sector Solutions. “Drones are already used in agriculture, public safety, construction, utilities, real estate and TV. This research can help support the commercial and private use of drones nationwide.”

A key element AT&T and NASA are researching is the potential impact of cybersecurity threats. The vast availability of drones – and their many current and potential uses – could increase their risk of cyberattacks. AT&T advocates cybersecurity protections designed into the system from the outset.

Chris Penrose, President of AT&T’s Internet of Things Solutions, was selected as a member of the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) earlier this year. The group identifies and advises actions to support the safe introduction of UAS into the national airspace.

Excellent to see AT&T bringing their expertise to this challenge. One can expect them to focus on using their LTE network as a part of the solution. AT&T has already evaluated how to re-aim or augment existing LTE antennas (and we are talking tens of thousands) to ensure coverage up to 400′ if the demand is there.
Particularly heartening is the emphasis on baking in cybersecurity which is a much better approach than trying to bolt it on later. Secure communications (C2) is essential for truly integrated, autonomous and high altitude operations in the NAS.



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