By Kiet Do

MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX 5) – NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field was part of aviation history on Tuesday, as the agency conducted its most complex test to date of its air traffic management system for drones.

Moffett Field was among six sites selected nationwide for the test. During the test, 22 drones were all being tracked simultaneously in real time.

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After working on the system for a year and a half, the team was all smiles.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty big step for us to see the system working across all these different areas in the U.S. at the same time, and the system performing as we expect it to,” flight test director told KPIX 5. “So yeah, it was a proud moment for all of us who were involved.”

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The drone pilots send in their flight path to the system. If there are no conflicts, such as flying too close to an airport, government building or another drone, the software approves the flight plan. If the drone goes outside the boundary, the pilot will get an alert.

Scientists at NASA want to stress that this is a research platform. But what it can already do is pretty cool. Using the iPad app, one can actually zoom in to one particular drone’s flight path. A user can then tap on that drone itself, it’ll bring up that drone’s information, the call sign, the flight path, and the pilot’s contact information.

NASA worked with more than 200 different government agencies, companies, and industry groups to create a robust tracking system that could one day track tens of thousands of drones nationwide.

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“While we’re all anxious to get this thing going, we need to be rigorous about our approach and make sure we satisfy all the regulatory and operational requirements before we say this is ready,” NASA project manager Parimal Kopardekar said.