Drone Makers Seek Traffic Control

NASA-backed software could orchestrate urban skies

The commercial use of drones remains mostly illegal in the U.S. All the same, businesses are moving ahead with ways to profit from the small helicopters, with some assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration. In February the FAA, which is preparing drone rules, agreed to exempt State Farm from the prohibition, letting the insurer test the use of drones in claim inspections. On March 19 the agency granted Amazon.com a waiver to continue testing its package-delivery drones. And in Portland, Ore., startup SkyWard is pushing forward with a drone traffic control system that will allow thousands of the machines to fly through cities without colliding with one another or endangering people.