The Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR) has announced the successful demonstration of a new airborne collision avoidance system (ACAS) for small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
The test flights for the ACAS sXu system were held in October at Griffiss Airport in Rome, N.Y., the site of New York State’s federal UAS test site, managed by NUAIR.
The system is a smaller and more compact version of the ACAS X, an ACAS now under development for large passenger- and cargo-carrying aircraft. The tests showed the system has the unique ability to detect and avoid other aircraft, both manned and unmanned, says NUAIR.
The tests were a collaboration between AiRXOS, a GE venture; Fortem Technologies; GE Aviation; GE Global Research; Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; the Federal Aviation Administration’s Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS) Program Office; AX Enterprize, the New York UAS test site; and NUAIR Alliance.
During flight, detect-and-avoid (DAA) capabilities use information from airborne and ground-based sensors to make pilots aware of potential collision risk and provide guidance to ensure a safe outcome. The ACAS sXu system is specifically designed to do this by providing backup collision avoidance to provide an additional layer of safety beyond existing air traffic control systems and flight procedures.
According to NUAIR, these features are key toward the commercialization of drones and urban air mobility. Furthermore, the ACAS tests specifically showed that the system could be run as an airborne system, as well as a cloud-based system inside of the UAS traffic management (UTM) architecture, with similar DAA abilities.
“This industry collaborative test marks another proud industry first: an airborne DAA radar feeding airspace detection data into an onboard ACAS sXu in live flight and generating resolution advisories to ensure safe avoidance of a potential airborne collision,” says Adam Robertson, co-founder of Fortem Technologies. “For the first time in history, flight collision threat detection and autonomous avoidance with onboard ACAS sXu was demonstrated in a sUAS live flight, enabled by the integration of a Fortem TrueView R20 radar.”
“Through this successful demonstration, these partners have helped the unmanned systems industry reach another milestone,” says Major General Marke F. “Hoot” Gibson (ret), CEO of the NUAIR Alliance. “These collaborative efforts support the research and development critical to the safe integration of unmanned systems in the national airspace. Together, we are advancing the industry as a whole and furthering this region’s position as a national leader for UTM technologies.”
NUAIR notes that DAA can eliminate the need to use visual observers in beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations and lead to more cost-scalable operations. In fact, during testing, a GE-developed vehicle configuration was flown BVLOS.