A Future Air-Traffic Control System for Drones Could Use Mobile Phones

By Chris Mills on at

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones or quadcopters as you'd prefer to call them, have certainly taken off in the last few years, which is great, if you love taking cool movies (or terrorising your neighbour's dog). But it's created a headache for the authorities, who have moved to regulate the infant industry, and make low-flying aircraft controlled by amateur pilots safer. The latest proposal: an air-traffic control system based on cellular networks.

The idea for using the existing cellular infrastructure to control drones has been put forward by Airwave, a drone startup. It's working with NASA on a prototype traffic management system that will see drones hooked up to a central server (and presumably civilian air traffic control) via the existing cellular network. Not only will that enable the traffic management system to see where each drone is, but in theory, it will also allow for an air-traffic-control 'takeover' of drones, to prevent collisions.

In addition to the obvious Skynet problem of having all the country's flying machines controllable by one central computer, there's also a more mundane question of reliability: cell networks don't have complete coverage over all the country, especially in some of the more remote wilderness areas that tend to be popular for drone photography. On second thoughts, maybe we should keep it that way: somewhere to hide when the Dronepocalypse starts. [Mashable]