Photo Credit: Bill Carey

At AUVSI’s Xponential show last week, NASA was on hand to demonstrate the traffic management systems that will be needed if large “swarms” of drones start operating as part of big industry in commercial airspace.

Currently in its third stage, the Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) project involves tracking drones and experimenting with flight management tools such as geo-fencing.

One of the companies working on building the technology needed for this project is Gryphon Sensors, which demonstrated their Mobile Skylight sensor suite at Xponential. It was announced in a press release for the first time May shortly before the show.

Mobile Skylight was designed as part of NASA’s Project UAS Secure Autonomous Flight Environment (U-SAFE), an air traffic management system deployed in conjunction with UTM as part of a five-year plan supported by the State of New York.

Mobile Skylight allows for beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) operation. Managing BVLOS flight was a big topic of conversation at Xponential, since BVLOS allows drones to be used for more applications and at a broader range, but it requires sophisticated tracking. Mobile Skylight’s dual-band mesh network allows it to deploy many different kinds of sensors from one location. Those include radar that can detect small drones at a range of 10 km or general aircraft at a range of 27 km.

It’s also the first mobile platform of this type in the industry. Housed in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van outfitted for off-road, it operates as a mobile command center in almost any area in which drones might need to be deployed. It can track multiple aircraft in one area, but it also includes built-in target tracking and friend-or-foe identification.

Gryphon Sensors is offering Mobile Skylight services now, with possible applications in airport security or VIP protection, first responder services, precision agriculture, construction and mining, and other industries that could benefit from BVLOS.

A subsidiary of not-for-profit research and development center SRC Inc., Gryphon also provides drone and aircraft detection for several Federal Aviation Administration programs, including the FAA Drone Detection Pathfinder.