Integrating Drones into the US Air Traffic Control System

The technology already exists to build drones that are able to electronically see and avoid other aircraft. Drones of all sizes can be integrated into the air traffic control system by using this technology and maintaining the current requirement that drones yield the right-of-way to other aircraft. This technology is already used in piloted aircraft, and examining how drones can be integrated into the air traffic control system suggests ways that the system can be improved for piloted aircraft as well. The current system is a centralized system in which aircraft follow the instructions given by air traffic controllers. Current technology would allow a redesign so that both piloted and unmanned aircraft could fly when and where they want. Such a system would resolve potential conflicts in a decentralized manner as they arise, without the need for centralized control of air traffic.

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