An aerospace engineering professor at The University of Texas at Arlington is examining the complexities involved in adding aerial taxis, delivery drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the already crowded airspace over the United States.

Kamesh Subbarao has received a nearly $150,000 grant from NASA to help determine how increased air traffic from UAVs will affect airspace operations. Associate Professor Animesh Chakravarthy is the co-principal investigator on the project.

The team will study how to safely operate both UAVs and piloted aerial vehicles in urban settings, what to do when a UAV has an emergency and how UAVs should be equipped to react to each other and piloted aircraft.

The team also will investigate whether current restrictions, such as Class B airspace classifications that restrict certain areas to commercial aircraft only, may need to be modified.

Subbarao and Chakravarthy will try to determine how multiple factors impact air traffic in a dynamic environment.

The information will run through an algorithm to simulate and test their theories, using NASA data for validation.

Subbarao will provide the algorithm and simulation results to NASA for further testing and research.

“There are legacy systems that don’t take into account future technology like flying taxis and airborne delivery services that will have to share airspace in busy urban settings,” Subbarao said. “Ultimately, this could help create routes that will take contingencies into account and give input ahead of time for the people who will design those routes for all types of aircraft.”