One step closer: NASA and Collins Aerospace advance technology for safe operation of unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace System

  • Final phase of a nine-year project to develop command and control data link waveform
  • Creates a standards-based command and control data link for unmanned aircraft operating in civil airspace

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (Feb. 13, 2020) – Collins Aerospace Systems, a unit of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX), is entering the final stages of a nine-year project with NASA to enable unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to operate safely in the National Airspace System (NAS). The project, co-funded by Collins Aerospace and which is expected to be completed in Sept. 2020, has facilitated the development of a Command Non-Payload Control (CNPC) data link waveform that informed the initial certification standards for UAS Command and Control in the NAS.

Collins Aerospace invested in a series of prototype radios to house the waveform for NASA’s flight tests. A C-Band prototype CNPC data link radio, called the CNPC-5000, was the baseline for the most recent testing and will continue to be a key component in future research and test flights for other programs.*

“CNPC is critical to maintaining positive control of UAS in complex operations within national airspace, such as flights beyond visual line of sight or above 500 feet. We’ve already applied our CNPC waveform to the FAA’s Pathfinder program with BNSF Railway,” said Heather Robertson, vice president and general manager, Integrated Solutions for Collins Aerospace. “Our CNPC-5000 data links provide the reliable, safe and secure connection needed to maintain control of unmanned aircraft at all times while operating in the complex environment of controlled airspace.”

The S-3A research aircraft pictured has been the primary testbed from 2013 to 2019 for flight testing of CNPC related technologies.

The prototype CNPC-5000 radio will be supporting NASA’s System Integration Operationalization (SIO) program through flights with General Atomics’ SkyGuardian. Multiple CNPC-5000 demonstrations are also planned throughout 2020.

Along with the CNPC-5000, Collins Aerospace continues to invest in other critical technologies that will facilitate the integration of UAS into the NAS. This year, the company announced its involvement in the first successful end-to-end flight of General Atomics’ SkyGuardian in civil airspace with its Pro Line Fusion® integrated avionics system as part of a Certifiable Ground Control Station. The company’s web-based WebUAS℠ operations management tool has also been used in various test flights and programs to coordinate the multi-node CNPC network, provide real-time situational awareness to flight safety critical information such as link quality, and act as a gateway to weather, air traffic and critical information and services.


About Collins Aerospace

Collins Aerospace, a unit of Raytheon Technologies Corp., is a leader in technologically advanced and intelligent solutions for the global aerospace and defense industry. Collins Aerospace has the extensive capabilities, comprehensive portfolio and broad expertise to solve customers’ toughest challenges and to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving global market. For more information, visit

About Raytheon Technologies

Raytheon Technologies Corporation is an aerospace and defense company that provides advanced systems and services for commercial, military and government customers worldwide. With 195,000 employees and four industry-leading businesses ― Collins Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Raytheon Missiles & Defense ― the company delivers solutions that push the boundaries in avionics, cybersecurity, directed energy, electric propulsion, hypersonics, and quantum physics. The company, formed in 2020 through the combination of Raytheon Company and the United Technologies Corporation aerospace businesses, is headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts.

* IMPORTANT NOTICE: The CNPC-5000 device has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. This device is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.

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