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News & Notes

Mission Insight Hopes to Help Users Manage UAS Data

Don't call it mission impossible

May 25, 2016

Mission Insight integrates multiple flight operations into a single interface. Above is a preview of the app from UTM testing in Fairbanks, AK.
University of Alaska Fairbanks - Geographic Information Network of Alaska/Simulyze
There's no question that the national airspace will have to make room for unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The FAA knows it. NASA knows it. Simulyze knows it.

Simulyze, a company founded in 2000 that provides operational intelligence technology to both federal and commercial organizations, showcased its drone app Mission Insight on April 19 during NASA’s UAS Traffic Management (UTM) testing.

The goal of the test was to get at least 16 drones flying safely at once ― at one point during the test flight, 22 drones flew simultaneously, which made the (UTM) platform a success.

UAS operators at the Fairbanks, AK, and Grand Forks, ND, test sites used Mission Insight to submit flight plans, monitor aircraft status and telemetry, activate flights, and transmit aircraft position data to the UTM research platform. All of these actions were performed through a single app interface, and the company said Mission Insight was the only “enterprise-level solution” that integrated all aspects of multiple flight operations.

Mission Insight is built off Simulyze’s initial product, Flight Control. Flight Control is an air, ground, and maritime visualization tool and has been used by the military, Department of Homeland Security, and other government bodies. It allows users to view various types of data in real-time through an easy-to-read app. Mission Insight offers similar features, but with UAS-specific adjustments.

Kevin Gallagher, CEO and co-founder of Simulyze, says the company saw a similar void in UAS that it saw in the military and defense realm: The lack of tech that provides real-time event monitoring and processing that’s easy to both use and understand.

“We thought the drone market had a ton of potential and lots of various application areas,” he says.

So in 2014, the company set its sights on UAS.

A complete picture

The goal of Mission Insight is to help support safe and efficient drone operations.

Gallagher says that while many people are looking at building new platforms and sensors for drones, he believes it’s equally necessary to look at the information that UAS provide.

“We think the important part of it also has to be in that data, that operational intelligence kind of data, and the processing and the analytics you get from that [data],” he says.

The app processes and analyzes tons of information ― sensory data, weather data, GPS tracking information, social media data, video metadata, radar intelligence, unmanned aerial vehicle data, databases, imagery, and signals intelligence ― that is pertinent for drone pilots and those monitoring the airspace.

Ideally, the system will also be able to monitor Twitter, Facebook, and other prominent social media channels to see if there are any reported UAS incidents. But this feature is not quite ready for drones.

“As far as directly applicable to drones, that’s probably a few steps away,” says Gallagher.
Kevin Gallagher, CEO and co-founder of Simulyze, was excited that the first testing involving Mission Insight went well. He says NASA was also pleased, as Simulyze is invited to continue participating in the Unmanned Traffic Management testing.
It’s a starting point

Michael Hatfield, associate director of science and education for the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration, took part in the UTM testing at the Alaska test site.

He praises Simulyze for both being responsive to tech requests and its overall platform. However, he explains Mission Insight and NASA’s UTM system aren’t perfect — yet.

“There is a learning curve, like anything else. Unfortunately, the overall usability of the end product is affected by both the usability, stability, and maturity of both the Simulyze software and the NASA UTM software,” Hatfield says. “Challenges in one suite would affect the usability of the overall system.”

Gallagher knows there’s work to be done, too. However, this is one of the first large tests — and the more Mission Insight and NASA’s UTM is tested, the more opportunities for learning arise.

Simulyze is participating in all four levels of NASA’s UTM testing. The levels are called Technology Capability Levels (TCL), each level increasing in difficulty. TCL Two will begin in October 2016, and will be testing beyond visual line-of-sight. Still in its early stages, NASA plans to turn over research and further testing to the FAA in 2019.

With some more time and testing, Mission Insight could help allow UAS to share the national airspace with the big guys.

Read about other efforts to organize the airspace here.
Featured image: Drew Halverson