By Alex DeMetrick

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland airspace may not be involved, but the state’s brain power definitely is.

Alex DeMetrick reports the FAA will include research at the University of Maryland into the job of integrating drone aircraft into civilian airspace.

At the University of Maryland, they’re trying to do more than pilot drones by hand. Researchers are trying to figure out how insects navigate through the air without big brains or GPS.

Figure that out, and:

“We can leverage that to navigate and also possibly for sense and avoid technology in the national airspace,” said Dr. Darryll Pines, Dean, University of Maryland School of Engineering.

Right now, that airspace takes humans to fly in. But the FAA has selected Virginia and five other states to develop and test drone technology in unrestricted airspace–research the University of Maryland will also join in.

“So we’re actually in a very good position. We have a lot of human capital, a lot of infrastructure that will be directly applicable to this field,” Matt Scassero, Director, University of Maryland drone test site.

The kind the military’s been doing at Patuxent Naval Air Station in Southern Maryland, where a programmed drone has landed on an aircraft carrier without human control.

The FAA wants to see that done by small drones below 400 feet and by large drones at 60 to 70,000 feet, carrying cargo above commercial airspace.

“Really, the two critical areas are going to be the command and control links and the detect and avoid, which is the equivalent of see and avoid for a manned aircraft,” Scassero said.

“We don’t want these systems falling out of the sky. More so, we don’t want them injuring anyone on the ground,” Pines said.

The FAA has established a five-year window for development and testing, though it could take far longer to get drones into unrestricted airspace.

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