Improving Airspace Awareness: Possible LED Lighting Solutions for Safe UAS Operations

All Authors

Jennifer E. Martinez, NMSU Justin MacDonald, NMSU

The Advance Air Mobility mission aims to create an advanced landscape or "Airscape" that will allow unmanned aircraft to fly through challenging environments, including narrow areas of cities. To ensure safe and efficient operations, various factors, such as drone visibility, must be taken into account. This preliminary study will focus on identifying the characteristics of LED lighting systems that can maximize the conspicuity of unmanned aircraft for ground-based observers. The research will examine lighting patterns, light placement, and drone movement to determine the best lighting system methodologies for UAS operations. The study will use recordings of the drone in flight captured by a 360-degree camera. Participants will view clips of the recordings through a Virtual Reality (VR) headset in a controlled lab environment. Eye-tracking software within the VR headset will record the participants' visual attention to the drone. The study will also use a game controller to record the detection rate and reaction time of the participants. Participants will be recruited from the Psychology Department subject pool and the general population, and I aim to collect data from 40-50 participants. The data collection will start fall 2023. The expected outcome of the study is to determine the most effective lighting system methodology for UAS operations. Implementing the best methodology can significantly improve the visual perception and decision-making abilities of UAS operators and prevent in-air collisions.

This research is based upon work supported by the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium (NMSGC) Space Grant Fellowship through a NASA Cooperative Agreement No. NM-80NSSC20M0034