Drones

New system allows air traffic controllers to converse with drones

New system allows air traffic ...
An air traffic controller advises a drone, using the experimental system (Photo: RMIT University)
An air traffic controller advises a drone, using the experimental system (Photo: RMIT University)
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An air traffic controller advises a drone, using the experimental system (Photo: RMIT University)
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An air traffic controller advises a drone, using the experimental system (Photo: RMIT University)

If autonomous delivery drones are ever going to see widespread use, then they can't simply fly around with no regard for other aircraft. In recent projects, drone operators had to file flight plans in advance. Researchers from Australia's RMIT University have gone a step farther, however. They've developed a system that lets drones communicate with air traffic controllers using a synthesized voice.

The system was developed by RMIT in collaboration with Thales Australia's Centre for Advanced Studies in Air Traffic Management (CASIA), and software engineering firm UFA Inc. It utilizes UFA's ATVoice Automated Voice Recognition and Response software, allowing drones to both verbally respond to spoken information requests (delivered by radio), and to act on clearances granted by air traffic controllers.

"Our project aimed to develop and demonstrate an autonomous capability that would allow a drone to verbally interact with air traffic controllers," said Dr. Reece Clothier, leader of the RMIT Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Team. "Using the system we’ve developed, an air traffic controller can talk to, and receive responses from a drone just like they would with any other aircraft."

A flight test of the system was performed late last year, using Thales’ Top Sky Air Traffic Control System.

Source: RMIT University

2 comments
Andrew Fisher
"Open the pod bay doors, HAL"
David Currey
So are these drones going to deposit my book from Amazon on my doorstep? Or leave it out on the lawn in the rain? If on my doorstep, it's going to have to maneuver under my tree and then under my front eave. These things have blades on all four corners. How do they plan to keep from putting peoples' eyes out? What about hawks, or other birds. Can these things take a hit from an angry bird the size of a red tail hawk? If a downburst hits just as its coming in under the eave and an old lady is just heading out the door, how does it keep from taking her head off or doing other serious bodily harm? I read they will have to fly at an elevation of 200 feet and at 100 miles an hour. When one of these malfunctions because it got hit by hail and had its sensors knocked out of alignment, what then? Supposedly they won't go near airports. What about helicopters? Helicopters go all over town. How will drones avoid other drones? If they have to file flight plans and converse with aircraft controllers, how much is this going to tax the already overtaxed controllers? There would be hundreds of these things flying all over large cities. Are they going to knock on my door and hand me a Watch Tower? Where would it stop? I can imagine that one day drones could deliver goods to peoples' doorsteps, but not ones with spinning blades. This will happen in the fairly far distant future, not in two years.