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TCL4 UTM (UAS Traffic Management) Texas 2019 Flight Tests, Airspace Operations Laboratory (AOL) Report  (2020)
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The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) concept combines airspace
design, flight rules, operational procedures, ground-based systems and vehicle capabilities to enable
safe and efficient use of airspace by small UAS (sUAS). As part of NASA’s UTM research effort
(Kopardekar, et al., 2016), five sets of flight tests were conducted over five years, demonstrating
Technical Capability Levels (TCLs) with different environment complexities, airspace constraints,
and operation objectives. As an example of these TCL differences, early (TCL1) flight tests focused
on a single sUAS flying in restriction-free airspace, within sight of the operator and over unpopulated
open space (Johnson, et al., 2017). Later, the Technical Capability Level 4 (TCL4) flight tests
demonstrated multiple sUAS operations encountering constraints and airspace restrictions in a densely
populated downtown location and also showcased more complex UAS Service Supplier (USS)
functionality than previous TCL tests.

The high density and fast pace of urban arenas (see FAA, 2018 or Kopardekar, et al., 2016 for
descriptions of the UTM concept) impose more demands on the user to fly safely and efficiently and
highlight the need for precise maneuvering and the almost constant need to avoid obstacles. To
support operators, UTM information, primarily gained through USSs but also through Supplemental
Data Service Providers (SDSPs) and potentially other portals (e.g., remote identification (RID)
situation awareness tools), needs to be easily usable in a human factors sense – that is, it must be clear,
concise, consistent, understandable, and straightforward (Krug, 2014). If a system provides users with
adequate information, then those users should report being comfortable with their awareness and
decisiveness within the system.

Approaching the TCL4 demonstration from the perspective of the user, with the goal of instructing
what the minimum information best practices might be, the driving inquiry was: "How do UTM tools
and features support (human) operators leading to safe and effective conduct of large-scale beyond
visual line of sight sUAS operations in "urban canyon" environments?" This overarching theme
focused the feedback from flight crews around the properties of many essential UTM information
exchanges. These research drivers were overlaid onto the NASA statement of work scenarios to
develop a set of questions to UAS and USS operators. Two test sites were chosen to conduct
demonstrations: Lone Star Center for Excellence and Innovation (LSUASC), a Texas A&M
University organization based in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous
Systems based in Las Vegas, Nevada. For readability, the current report examines the Lone Star TCL4
flight demonstration in Texas only (see Martin, et al., 2020, for the results from the NIAS, Nevada test
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2019, Aircraft, Airspace, AOL, Flight, Laboratory, Management, Operations, Report, System, TCL4, Tests, Texas, Traffic, UAS, Unmanned, UTM
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Curator: Phil So
NASA Official: Alonso Vera
Last Updated: August 15, 2019