Successful Test of DARPA's Sense-and-Avoid System to Avoid Mid-Air Collisions
A research effort associated with DARPA's Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program recently conducted the first successful flight tests of a shoebox-sized, plug-and-play system designed to enable manned and unmanned aircraft to automatically detect nearby aircraft and avoid potential mid-air collisions. An unmanned air vehicle (UAV) repeatedly used the technology demonstration system to detect and track in real time a Cessna 172G aircraft approaching from various vertical and horizontal distances. The integrated sense-and-avoid (SAA) system includes a single optical camera that provides imagery for detection and tracking. The system also incorporates passive ranging features that assess the likelihood of an incoming aircraft to intersect the flight path of its host aircraft, and collision-avoidance capabilities to determine the best way to steer the host aircraft out of harm's way. DARPA aims to create a low-cost, easily installed system to detect oncoming or crossing aircraft and determine the best avoidance strategy compliant with standard rules that set minimum vertical and lateral distances between aircraft during flight. The system could ultimately serve as a line of defense in future layered air-traffic management systems that could include Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) transponders and ground-based radar systems.