New aerial systems traffic management now online

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EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - The 413th Flight Test Squadron is the new home of the Collaborative Low-Altitude UAS Integration Effort, or CLUE.   

The AFWERX and Air Force Research Laboratory’s Information Directorate’s system verifies that current air traffic management systems can ensure complete safety as drones and electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft take flight.

“Airspace management will play a key role for the future of air mobility and technologies like drones, eVTOLs, etc.,” said Darshan Divakaran, AFWERX’s head of airspace innovation and Prime partnerships. “To promote technological advancements, we cannot compromise on safety. AFWERX Prime is focusing on collaborating with other agencies to ensure we can accelerate the future of air mobility in a safe and secure manner.”

At Duke Field, where the 413th Flight Test Squadron is located, the unit will evaluate and test military and commercial UTM systems such as CLUE, as well as other related technologies and sensors. The testing focuses on evaluating the UTMs’ capabilities for deconfliction, communication and security as well as low-altitude weather and beyond visual line of sight operations. An AFRL/RI field service representative manages the system and provides training and demonstrations.

“Eglin is going to be one of our primary proving ground locations for multiple efforts across AFWERX Prime, including airspace efforts supporting Agility Prime and Autonomy Prime,” Divakaran said. “Our focus will be to have situational awareness up to 12,000 feet mean sea level.”

Once the system was set up, AFWERX was able to demonstrate its capabilities with a drone. The CLUE system was able to track two to three simulated uncrewed systems operating in their designated airspace along with live, manned air traffic.

Future testing at Eglin will involve different UAS models, though they all will weigh less than 70 pounds, a size that allows them to fly more often and with fewer restrictions, according to Maj. Riley Livermore, 413th FLTS future flights commander. This will provide validated data, before they integrate eVTOL, larger UAS and other advanced air mobility aircraft.