UAV SEE AND AVOID TECHNOLOGIES

ABSTRACT

The Sensors Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) along with Defense Research Associates (DRA) conducted a demonstration of technology that could potentially satisfy the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) requirement for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to see-and-avoid air traffic with the “equivalent level of safety, comparable to see-and-avoid requirements for manned aircraft.”  This FAA requirement must be satisfied for autonomous UAV operation within the national airspace.  The system passively detects approaching aircraft, both cooperative and non-cooperative, using imaging sensors operating in the visible band.  Detection range requirements for Global Hawk and Predator UAVs were determined based on analysis of flight geometries, avoidance maneuver timelines, and system latencies.  The effort was limited to altitudes below 10 thousand feet where incursions with the non-cooperative aircraft are most likely.  This restriction limits the maximum speed of the approaching aircraft to 250 KTAS.  A flight demonstration was conducted using a surrogate UAV to host the detection system and a “target” aircraft.  The system demonstrated extremely reliable target detection out to at least 4 nautical miles in worst case nose-to-nose scenarios.  The demonstrated capabilities meet or exceed typical detection range requirements for the two UAVs considered in the study.