NASA Expands Use of TerraPoiNT Network for Commercial Drone Tests


Back in November of 2018, NASA began collaborating with NextNav, a leader in next-gen 3D geolocation technologies. At the time, the collaboration was struck in order to better track IoT devices in city environments as the number of urban mobility projects began to rise. NextNav’s Metropolitan Beacon System (MBS) provided NASA with new tools for developing more reliable navigation systems in GPS-challenged settings. And now, as they continue working together, it was announced earlier this month that NASA will be expanding its uses of NextNav’s TerraPoiNT system with the goal of more accurately capturing in-flight location data of drones to further validate flight safety.

Some context: As NextNav has stated, the importance of supporting geolocation tech should not be downplayed, as a hypothetical GPS outage could cost the United States alone a whopping $1 billion per day. To that end, NextNav seeks to enable new ecosystems of location-based applications and services through a dedicated, terrestrial network.

Enter TerraPoiNT, NextNav’s Point, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) system which enhances existing GPS capabilities. PNT is what powers TerraPoiNT (i.e. found literally within its name), and with it comes the offering of encrypted signals resistant to jams and spoofing of GPS. So in areas with an absence of GPS (and a need for strengthened digital infrastructure), NASA will seek to leverage NextNav’s now commercial grade TerraPoiNT network to conduct drone tests. This testing, as stated, should lend a more precise view into drone flight navigation, collision avoidance, and even network tests for drones operating beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight.

TerraPoiNT, which is capable of delivering signals 100,000 stronger than satellite-based GPS, has been a top-performing PNT solution in a number of different sectors. Thus it makes sense that NASA wishes to continue expanding its IoT footprint via TerraPoiNT, and harnessing this technology also highlights its applicability across growing air mobility markets.

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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