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A new detect-and-avoid radar technology for UAS was successfully tested earlier this month in Texas. The Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (LSUASC) worked with AirRobot and Echodyne to successfully fly three drones in the same airspace. According to this was the first time a small UAS-onboard radar successfully detected boat traffic in a major waterway along with small UAS traffic flying in the area.

“Echodyne’s airborne detect-and-avoid radar was made especially for small to medium UAS to enables safe beyond visual-line-of-site operations, in all environments and conditions,” said Jerry Hendrix, Executive Director for the LSUASC, according to a press release. The flights also provided NASA with data to help improve first-responder priority operations.

“Radar is an ideal sensor technology for all sorts of scanning and imaging applications, especially when environmental conditions are less than ideal,” said Thomas Driscoll, Chief Technology Officer for Echodyne. “Our radar thrives over other sensors in unpredictable weather conditions, can rapidly scan a broad field of view, can track Cessna-sized targets at distances greater than two kilometers, and dramatically increases situational awareness for UAS operators.”

The need for new rules and regulations in low-altitude airspace led to the creation of the Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management Plan (UTM), which consists of a series of activities called “Technology Capability Levels (TCL).” Each level increases in complexity.

Testing the new radar was part of NASA’s TCL 2, a national campaign focusing on flying small, remotely-operated aircraft BVLOS in sparsely populated areas to demonstrate, evaluate, and refine functional designs and UTM technology prototypes.

The next step, or TCL 3, will focus on testing technologies that maintain safe spacing between responsive and non-responsive UAS over moderately populated areas.