Drone Tests ADS-B-Based ‘Sense-and-Avoid’ Technology

Technology aims to counter problems posed by pilotless aircraft.

A Maryland company named R3 Engineering reported yesterday it has completed successful testing of an ADS-B-based fully autonomous collision avoidance sequence. The “sense and avoid” system installed in an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) received and processed ADS-B signals from another aircraft, and the UAS’s on board computer determined that their courses constituted a threat of a collision.

The computer algorithm calculated that a potential breach of the aircraft’s “collision volume” was imminent. The computer calculated a safe diversion and sent the course change to the UAS autopilot, which redirected the aircraft. Once clear of the traffic, the computer redirected the UAS back to its original flight path.

R3 said in a press release, “The entire sequence was autonomous, with no command or control inputs from outside the unmanned aircraft.”

The company plans to expand the test program later this year, using restricted airspace, and incorporating what it calls “non-cooperative target data” from sensors, including radar and electro-optical/infra-red, into the sense-and-avoid process.

ADS-B-based sense-and-avoid technology is considered critical to plans to integrate UAS into North American airspace. The FAA reauthorization legislation passed earlier this year included a mandate to complete that integration by the end of September 2015.