TECH REPORT: NASA’s goals for unmanned planes

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Data pix.

LOS ANGELES -- NASA has been making trips to outer space for decades.  But now the organization is focusing on trips more close to the earth with unmanned airplanes.

You may have seen news reports about unmanned airplanes being used for military and scientific research.  NASA says they're working on ways to make these airplanes useful in our everyday lives.  It's been two years since NASA scrapped the space shuttle program.  Now the space agency has a new goal --making unmanned planes mainstream.

"While most people associate NASA and space, we also do a lot of aeronautics research and that includes unmanned aircraft systems," said NASA's Kevin Rohrer.

Recently, NASA showed off various models they're currently testing.  From the smallest known as "The Droid" to the largest known as "The Global Hawk."   Today, they're used for research flying into places too dangerous for pilots.

"There`s an infrared sensor that bolts on the wing that can track the hot spots of forest fires and then near real time transmit that down to the fire commanders. so that they can better deploy their firefighter forces," the agency's Donald Johnson explained.

"We`re actually looking at different parts of the storm, the wind profile or the precipitation in the storm using high red or high rap which are two NASA instruments for studying hurricanes," said Capt. Philip Hall.

NASA wants to make unmanned aircraft a part of our everyday lives.

"Mostly people hear about the military aspects, but there`s a lot of civil and commercial aspects," said Laurie Gindle.

Imagine having one one of these aircraft drop off a package at your house or flying you across the country.  Now that's auto pilot to the extreme.

"The FAA has been tasked with having unmanned aircraft systems flying in the national airspace by 2015,"  Gindle said.

With more research and testing, NASA believes there's a lot more these plance could do  The 2015 goal is to have unmanned planes flying in national airspace might be a bit too optistic.  NASA representatives said they're hoping to be ready by 2020.

By Rich DeMuro, The Tech Report



More News