NASA has been working with the FAA to create a network for monitoring drone traffic in the United States, but that doesn’t mean it’s an entirely government agency-run effort. According to a report from the Guardian, Verizon will be joining the effort as well. By developing a system that uses existing cellular towers, NASA and Verizon want to create an effective yet inexpensive way to keep track of civilian and commercial drones flying in American airspace.
Verizon has a new project that doesn’t have much to do with iPhones or FiOS television. According to documents obtained by The Guardian, NASA, and Verizon are collaborating on ways to monitor the U.S.’s commercial and civilian drones from cell-phone towers. If Verizon’s experiment works, it would essentially turn cell-phone towers into an air traffic control infrastructure for a new wave of unmanned aircraft. Verizon is believed to have between 12,000 and 15,000 cell-phone towers nationwide. NASA is tasked by the federal government with much of the duty of figuring out a way for manned aircraft and unmanned drones to safely coexist. The Guardian’s Mark Harris wrote: “NASA is considering monitoring drones with a range of sensors including radar, orbiting satellites, and cell-phone signals. The UTM system is also likely to be cloud-based, meaning that drones will need an Internet link to download information about weather, traffic, and restricted zones. That combination makes using the existing phone networks very attractive.”