North Texas is attracting attention for its embrace of creative transportation solutions from an agency that knows something about moving people in innovative ways – NASA.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments has entered into an agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to study the potential of drone technology and integrate it into future transportation plans.
NASA will work with NCTCOG and a group of public- and private-sector partners to study cargo-carrying drones and automated air taxis during a series of at least four future workshops.
NASA has been engaged with the Federal Aviation Administration and other regions about how to integrate advanced air mobility technologies such as drones, also called unmanned aircraft systems, into metropolitan areas.
Drones are becoming more common for use in business, public safety and for recreational purposes, and NCTCOG has undertaken efforts to ensure the technology is integrated safely with the establishment of a task force of public- and private-sector aviation experts. Additionally, NCTCOG has been hosting monthly virtual workshops to help professional operators and hobbyists remain up to date on the rules and regulations governing drone use.
The NASA workshops will bring together subject-matter experts from NASA and transportation planning to help the region develop “best practices,” from identifying a common set of terms to use in discussions and planning documents, to evaluating potential criteria that might be used in locating future “vertiports” for vertical takeoff and landing aircraft – and more.
In addition to NCTCOG, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of the Ohio Department of Transportation and the City of Orlando, Florida, have agreed to work with NASA on similar projects. The effort will begin June 16, when NASA meets with the five entities selected.
Elements such as public acceptance, infrastructure, operational integration and local regulations must be considered on the way to widespread implementation of drone technology. The NASA-led exercises will help the region navigate these issues; NASA will bring lessons learned through its work with other regions across the country to help NCTCOG develop best practices and potentially access additional funding.