Queensland University of Technology Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) researchers have made what's believed to be a world-first breakthrough for small unmanned aircraft (UA), developing an onboard system that has enabled a UA to detect another aircraft using vision while in flight.

The research team proved the technology to enable unmanned aircraft to detect other aircraft in flight.

During the flight, the onboard system provided real-time warnings back to the ground control station, resulting in a successful manual collision-avoidance maneuver -- a critical point for allowing UAs to fly in commercial airspace. The technology was based on world-first vision-based sense-and-avoid technology developed and tested at QUT.

The sense-and-avoid technology being developed could ultimately have much broader application in general aviation as a detect-and-avoid aid to the human pilot. The final technical hurdle to UA operating in civil airspace is their ability to land safely in an emergency, and the research is expected to make significant strides towards overcoming that hurdle as well.