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Earlier this week, NASA announced the winner of its Commercial Invention of the Year award: Vigilant Aerospace’s Detect and Avoid Drone Safety System.

The FlightHorizon PILOT system is a comprehensive solution for unmanned autonomous aircraft, letting them detect, locate, track, predict, and avoid other aircraft, and then send avoidance commands to onboard autopilots to separate themselves from the conflict quickly and efficiently. With its patent and software developed in collaboration with NASA, the system employs flight algorithms and rules to ensure a safe and full control of the UAS, even when it’s out of sight (BVLOS).

The system uses the signal from the aviation transponder (ADS-B) on the unmanned aircraft to track in real-time all nearby aircraft. It can either be installed as an independent flight computer or as a software module on a primary flight computer on the unmanned aircraft. Using waypoints, the software provides self-separation and commands to maintain clear distances with the autopilot. Add-on data sources include onboard radar and networked air traffic control feeds (UTM).  

In this way, the technology makes it possible to display air traffic, predict trajectories, and provide autopilot and pilots with avoidance maneuvers. According to dronelife.com, detection and avoidance capabilities are essential to UAV industry growth and the advancement of autonomous aviation, as it enables better UAV control and provides increased safety when completing missions.