Photo: John Croft
NASA's Glenn Research Centre plans to issue a contract to upgrade its vintage Beechcraft T-34C (N608NA) turbine-powered single engine military trainer to a state-of-the-art unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) communications test bed.
"One of the major limitations to operations of UAS with the next generation air transportation system (NextGen) is the ability for UAS to communicate with ground controllers, using limited radio-frequency resources," says the agency in a 1 April solicitation.
NASA says the aircraft will to be used for "validation and verification of UAS communications systems as they impact UAS in flight", part of a broader one-year NASA and industry project to "develop and implement a national plan to successfully address the challenges of UAS access to the national airspace system (NAS) in a safe and timely manner".
The agency plans to release very soon a request for proposal for vendors to install research computers and internal Ethernet that will interface with a new two-axis autopilot, electronic flight instrumentation systems for both the T-34C front and rear cockpit and Mode S transponders for ADS-B "out" and ADS-B "in" functionality, also in both cockpits.
Satellite weather, either through XM or WSI, is also to be incorporated into the avionics.
NASA is requiring that the aircraft undergo an operational readiness review 40 weeks after contract award.