Drone Collision-Avoidance Tech Advances

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As the FAA faces a challenging deadline to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace by 2015, probably the biggest challenge is to ensure collision avoidance. This week, an engineering company in Maryland says it has successfully tested an ADS-B-based, fully autonomous collision avoidance system on a UAS. The test by R3 Engineering took place in August in Newfoundland, Canada. The sense-and-avoid system, with no external command or control inputs, "commanded the UAS's autopilot to depart from its programmed flight path, execute an internally computed maneuver to avoid a potential collision, and then return to the original planned flight path when well clear of the intruder," the company said in news release on Wednesday.

The test series included potential collision scenarios between the UAS and stationary hazards, moving ground hazards, and between two UAS aircraft. The system is able to develop target tracks from data it receives, project potential conflicts at a future time, compute and recommend to the ground-based remote pilot maneuvers such as course or speed change that will maintain safe separation, and if necessary, send collision avoidance maneuvers directly to the aircraft autopilot, the company said. More flight testing later this year will integrate data from sensors such as radar and electro-optical/infra-red into sense-and-avoid process. The testing has been funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Department of Defense.