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Rockwell Collins and NASA Test Aircraft Project

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28)--Rockwell Collins and NASA are joining hands on an airspace project.

Today, the companies conducted risk reduction tests that will eventually allow unmanned aircraft to safely fly in the national airspace.

The test is all about communication. For example a reliable cell phone network means you don't get dropped calls. The project is meant to test that same idea but with an unmanned aircraft.

This might just be a blast into the future, but in the future there won't be pilots in this aircraft.

"We're testing the ability for multiple unmanned aircraft to be able to be controlled via one ground tower, said Jim Griner of NASA.

Through a single tower or communication link on the ground, the pilot is able to control various unmanned aircrafts in the air without having to be inside.

"So this is that communication link that allows the pilot to tell the airplane to fly left, fly right, climb, dive, speed up, land, said John Moore of Rockwell Collins.

They are also testing the ability to use multiple towers to communicate with one unmanned aircraft.

Results and recommendations from the tests will eventually go to the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA.

"To allow the FAA to certify commercial unmanned aircraft in the future, said Griner.

John Moore says the technology can be used for precision agriculture.

"Using it for looking at crops perhaps for crop dusting like in Jap they have thousands of unmanned aviation, he said.

It can also be used for fighting fires and for search and rescue efforts.

Right now though, the goal is to ensure that it is safe.

"We're trying to produce systems that will have drones be just as safe as man aviation. So that it's safe to integrate them with other aircraft in the airspace. Safe to fly them over cities, said Moore.

John Moore says so far so good. They system is working very well and they've yet to find any problems.

They expect to have a final written recommendation to the FAA by 2016.
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