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Autonomy Operating System Project Conducts First Successful Interactive Test Flights With Air Traffic Control Communication
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Autonomy Operating System Project Conducts First Successful Interactive Test Flights With Air Traffic Control Communication

On August 16, the the Autonomy Operating System (AOS) project conducted its first interactive test flight with simulated Air Traffic Control (ATC) text communication. This flight test demonstrated the ability of AOS to receive messages from ATC and make decisions during flight that correspond to clearances for "Cleared to Enter" (terminal airspace), "Normal pattern", "Extended Downwind", "Call Your Base”, and "Go-Around". The test was conducted in the field in front of the large wind tunnel using an X8 octopter guided by AOS software on a dual core i7 similar to laptops. Waypoints were marked on the field corresponding to the corners of the legs of a standard traffic pattern for a single runway airport.

This was also the final FY16 summer intern test flight. University of Cincinatti undergraduate Jessica Glass and Monte Vista High School student Oeichi Banerjee developed the concept of operations directly from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) material. The interns also developed the software for the logical decision making under the guidance of AOS team members, especially Michael Dalal. The software language was the PLan EXecution Interchange Language (PLEXIL), which provides artificial intelligence capabilities for plan execution. The student interns also wrote a guide to developing AOS apps with PLEXIL.

In the next month, AOS plans to incorporate simulated traffic into the test flights, along with ATC directives to sequence behind other aircraft onto the runway. Future work will investigate use of full voice communication between the autonomous drone and humans acting as air traffic controllers in various phases of flight.

BACKGROUND: The Autonomy Operating System is an Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) convergent aeronautic solution project investigating autonomous smart drones that could one day could be certified to fly in the national air space without a remote ground team. AOS leverages reusable core Flight Software (cFS) developed for small satellite missions, as well as artificial intelligence technology developed by Ames and its partners over the last decade. The objective of the two-year AOS feasibility study is to determine whether a reusable software platform incorporating artificial intelligence could enable a wide variety of smart Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) apps – similar to the iPhone Operating System (iOS) for smartphone applications. The development and flight test of the Terminal Procedure app by student interns is a significant milestone towards demonstrating this capability.

TEAM MEMBERS: Oeichi Banerjee, Pat Castle, Michael Dalal, Jessica Glass, Greg Limes, Michael Lowry, and Fritz Renema

POINT OF CONTACT: Michael Lowry,

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