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A new ground-based Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) airspace situational awareness system has completed its first successful flight demonstration. The system was made by Insitu, a Boeing Company subsidiary.

The system is tackling one of the toughest challenges for UASs — the ability to detect nearby aircraft flying both within and beyond UAS operators’ line of sight, as was announced in a press release on insitu.com.

The company designed, developed, and tested the airspace situational awareness system in Australia under a program sponsored by the Queensland Government. The system is designed as one of the optional “layers” of safety to enable broad-area, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) capability for commercial UAS operations by providing airspace situational awareness for UAS operators, specifically to help detect and avoid so-called “non-cooperative” traffic. The system incorporates radio over internet protocol (ROIP) to expand its ability to communicate with air traffic control and local traffic in the operations area.

Currently, UAS ground control operators fly their aircraft only to a point where the UAS is within line-of-sight, as operators are unable to discern the location of other aircraft within the same airspace, potentially creating hazardous flying conditions. Using either mobile or fixed infrastructure, the system combines Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and transponder returns to provide a correlated common operating picture — enabling UAS operators at ground control systems to see real-time information about the local airspace.

Remotely detecting and tracking other airspace users, the system immediately sends the air traffic information back to a ground-control station — assisting operators in safely operating UASs over extended ranges.

“We now have integrated a significant capability that will dramatically improve airspace safety,” said Dara Albouyeh, Chief Engineer at the company.

The application of UAS enabling-technologies will benefit a wide range of sectors including mining, search and rescue, oil and gas operations, environmental management, and more.

The technology supports UAS data collection for analysis in areas such as infrastructure monitoring and inspection, change detection, intelligence, and others.

“We’re developing our ability to fly long distances with our UASs that satisfies the airspace regulators, providing UAS operators with access to information that we previously just couldn’t obtain otherwise,” said Mark Bauman, Vice President and General Manager at Insitu. “Now, we can prevent conflicts far more reliably, and will be able to access wide areas for commercial purposes,” Bauman explained. “This system shows great promise as one of many solutions or “layers” that we are pursuing to increase safety and allow BVLOS flights in the U.S.”