The University of North Dakota's (UND) Aerospace Sciences department Thursday showed off "sense and avoid" software fitted to a piloted NASA Cirrus SR-22 as it flew courses that conflicted with a stock Cessna 172. The effort is a collaboration that involves UND, NASA and MITRE Corp. In the test, the Cirrus served as the surrogate unmanned aerial system (UAS) flown with a safety pilot but directed automatically by ADS-B data and MITRE's algorithms. The test showed that the specially equipped SR-22 could detect the potential conflict posed by the converging 172, and maneuvered the Cirrus away. That has been repeated, but researchers say there's more work to be done.
Market-ready systems that reliably achieve collision avoidance are still several years away, UND's Mark Askelson told Minnesota Public Radio. "This is something that we've been developing for years and testing incrementally, and now we've built up to the point where we can perform these kind of tests." Data collected from the latest series of tests will be pored over for months as engineers seek to refine and improve the technology. Presently, researchers still believe that an ultimate solution will require on-board cameras and, possibly, radar systems. In a recently released report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) cited sense and avoid technology, among others, reaching the conclusion that the FAA is behind schedule on its integration of drones into the National Airspace System.