Designated in the United States as “upper Class E” airspace, the sky above 60,000 feet does not have stringent air traffic control rules since most aircraft are not capable of climbing to this edge-of-space altitude. But with commercial supersonic travel expected to take off as well as plans for more high-altitude vehicles, the number of aircraft that can reach this altitude will soon require specific rules of the road.
Enter one of NASA Aeronautics’ newest endeavors: Upper Class E Traffic Management, or ETM. This activity is researching how to create an air traffic management system that addresses the needs of upper Class E airspace.
NASA researchers developed and experimented with a new airspace management system in which multiple parties work collaboratively to plan and organize the rising number of uncrewed drone flights at low altitudes – preventing conflicts with other aircraft operations.