Advanced Technology to Enable Drone Integration in Airspace

Advanced Technology to Enable Drone Integration in Airspace

Photo illustration US Navy
110504-N-RC734-009 GULF OF ADEN (May 4, 2011) A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Scan Eagle is a runway independent, long-endurance, unmanned aerial vehicle system designed to provide multiple surveillance, reconnaissance data, and battlefield damage assessment missions. Comstock is assigned to Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, a multi-national coalition conducting counter piracy and maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/Released)

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An advanced Detect and Avoid (DAA) capability is now ready to field in real-world operations after test flights in Australia demonstrated enhanced detection ranges between an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and other airspace users. 

The technology developed by Insitu Pacific and Boeing Australia is designed to advance the ability to safely integrate UAS into different classes of airspace.

The vision-based technology can detect other aircraft at distances that are beyond the requirements for safe avoidance and are a vast improvement on the capabilities of the human eye.

According to Insitu, the latest trials had achieved a range of more than one nautical mile and were a culmination of over five years’ development in Queensland. “The flights demonstrated the value this technology brings to advancing airspace integration across all classes of airspace.” 

During the tests, the Insitu-built ScanEagle was fitted with a vision-based DAA solution paired with an advanced onboard processing system. Detection of another aircraft was immediately relayed to the UAS pilot, which can support decision-making on flights within non-segregated Class G airspace.

The recent tests with fixed wing general aviation aircraft and small utility helicopters achieved detection ranges that provide more than sufficient notice to alert the UAS operator to enact a successful avoidance manoeuvre, if required, according to Boeing. “We have a multi-layered safety case approach for airspace integration risk management, and the DAA technology complements our existing airspace management tools to identify and mitigate hazards. It will also provide additional assurance to both the regulator and customers that the UAS can provide detection of aircraft that are not equipped with transponders, and allow the UAS to be commanded to take avoiding action without other aircraft needing to take any action themselves.”

This technology offers new options for Australian Defence Force UAS operators and supports Australia’s sovereign capabilities goal.

As part of Insitu Pacific’s and Boeing’s commitment to Australian capability development, DAA research has been a collaboration with researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). A critical partner in the multi-year development of this capability, QUT undertook the bulk of the initial algorithm development to ensure the payload functions effectively.