NASA’s Using Augmented Reality to Transform Air Traffic Management

NASA recently announced that they are using Augmented Reality to make information about their vehicles (such as drones) more accessible. Complex data can be visualised via AR for tasks such as managing air traffic, local governance, or emergency response, as it enables people on the ground to be made aware of uncrewed vehicle operations.

The Airspace Operations Laboratory at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in Silicon Valley developed the AR software. It provides a digital overlay consisting of essential information about a vehicle’s mission, flight patterns, etc., bringing awareness about the local airspace to people such as local public officials, airspace operators, and emergency responders. This is vital for safety reasons and to form communications with local communities as more unconventional aircraft integrate.

AR leverages the capabilities of the Microsoft HoloLens to visualise data in the physical world, helping air traffic management occur in a far more interactive way than has been done previously. In addition to headsets, AR can also be used on smartphones.

NASA’s future in Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), which is aiming towards developing air transportations systems that transport people and cargo between aviation-underserved places, will benefit greatly from AR. The technology addresses challenges with uncrewed vehicles; with smaller uncrewed aircraft in urban environments, AR enables ground researchers to help test air traffic management systems by projecting interactive data overlays onto the real world.

During NASA’s final Technical Capability Level demonstration of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management project, the AR software underwent field evaluation. Joey Mercer, a researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in Silicon Valley, is quoted to have said that AR is a great tool for safely incorporating uncrewed aircraft into complex airspaces. In making automatic traffic system and uncrewed aircraft information accessible and visible, AR is changing how our skies are managed.

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