General Atomics Tests Gating Technology in FAA Acceptance of Unmanned Aircraft

A couple of months ago, we wrote about naval experiments with “sense and avoid” technology . The point behind the article was that “sense and avoid” technology is one of the gaiting factors behind the FAA approving widespread use and application of unmanned aircraft. The FAA regulations clearly state that sense and avoidance would be the sole responsibility of the unmanned aircraft when sharing airspace with manned aircraft.

Here’s some promising news on that front. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA ASI), recently announced two key technological advances related to its ongoing Sense and Avoid (SAA) system development efforts.

In collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Honeywell, GA-ASI tested a proof-of-concept SAA system, marking the first successful test of the FAA’s Airborne Collision Avoidance System for Unmanned Aircraft (ACAS XU). The company also performed the first flight tests of a pre-production air-to-air radar for SAA, called the Due Regard Radar (DRR), making it the first radar of its kind designed for a unmanned aircraft (UAV).

“Our latest Sense and Avoid test represents a major step forward for integrating RPA safely into domestic and international airspace,” said Frank Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “Our proof-of-concept SAA system is now functional and ready for extensive flight testing with the FAA, NASA, and our industry partners.”

A functional flight test of GA-ASI’s SAA system tested automatic collision avoidance and a sensor fusion capability designed to provide the pilot on the ground with a clear picture of the traffic around the aircraft. Using a Predator B the ACAS XU demonstrated that during collision avoidance maneuvers against ADS-B and transponder-equipped aircraft.

Congratulations General Atomics. This is a huge step forward in the integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in open airspace.