Navy to develop collision-avoidance system to enable UAVs to operate in civil airspace

ARLINGTON, Va., 25 Nov. 2009. U.S. Navy researchers are asking industry to develop a collision avoidance system to enable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to operate in civil airspace without the risk of crashing into other aircraft.

Posted by John Keller

ARLINGTON, Va., 25 Nov. 2009. U.S. Navy researchers are asking industry to develop a collision avoidance system to enable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to operate in civil airspace without the risk of crashing into other aircraft.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va., issued a broad agency announcement (BAA 10-009) Thursday for the Unmanned Air System (UAS) Autonomous Collision Avoidance System (ACAS) to enable unmanned aircraft to sense and avoid other aircraft while operating in the National Air Space System (NAS) -- whether or not the other aircraft have their own collision-avoidance equipment like transponders, TCAS, or other systems.

Initial research to develop a UAV collision-avoidance system will focus on the Navy MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, and the Army Tier 2 RQ-7A/B Shadow 200 small fixed-wing UAV.

ONR scientists are asking industry to develop a system that enables UAVs to observe the right of way rules developed for manned aircraft -- especially rules for them to see and avoid other fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, aerostats, gliders, balloons, and others.

Air Force researchers are pursuing a similar initiative called the Multi-Vehicle Unmanned Aircraft Systems Sense And Avoid (MUSAA), for which the Air Force Research Laboratory issued a BAA last month. See related story.

The sense and avoid necessary for the UAV will require several advances in size, weight, and power (SWAP), as well as cost for sensing systems, and improvements in the algorithms that can generate UAV platform course corrections reliably. Additional weight to be allowed on the UAVs is no more than 15 pounds.

Signal-processing computer hardware and software must be tailored to the sense capabilities and the individual UAV performance limitations on avoid maneuvers.

Shadow has an FAA experimental airworthiness certificate to operate together with civil general aviation aircraft at Benson Municipal Airport, a small airport without a control tower in Benson, Ariz.

The radar system electro-optical, and infrared sensors aboard the Fire Scout and Shadow UAVs can address part of the of air targets sense requirements, yet the capability to provide the necessary additional coverage cannot exceed 10 to 15 additional pounds total weight, or consume more than 300 Watts average (500 Watts peak) of power.

Navy researchers want a sense system to provide situational awareness of all cooperative and non–cooperative aircraft operating in the vicinity of the UAV; algorithms and software to process sensor data to produce avoid maneuvers; and collision-avoidance capability based on processed sense information and avoid algorithms.

For technical questions, contact Program Manager Bob Hintz by e-mail at robert.hintz@navy.mil or Michael Duncan at michael.d.duncan2@navy.mil. Also contact these two by post at One Liberty Center, 875 North Randolph St., Suite 1121, Arlington, Va. 22203-1995, Code: 312.

Business questions to go to Vanessa Seymour by e-mail at vanessa.seymour@navy.mil or Vera Carroll at vera.carroll@navy.mil.

White papers are due by 3 p.m. eastern time 4 Jan. 2010, and full proposals are due by 3 p.m. eastern time 8 March 2010. More information is available online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/DON/ONR/ONR/ONRBAA10-009/listing.html.

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