Military Embedded Systems

UAV demonstrates optical sense-and-avoid capability


April 13, 2016

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

UAV demonstrates optical sense-and-avoid capability
Photo by DARPA

ARLINGTON, Va. DARPA?s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program completed flight tests with the sense-and-avoid (SAA) system integrated into an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). In the demonstration, the UAV detected and tracked in real-time a Cessna 172G aircraft.

The SAA system includes an optical camera that provides imagery for detection and tracking. It also incorporates passive ranging features and collision-avoidance technology to determine the best way to steer clear of other aircraft and will also stay compliant with standard rules that set minimum vertical and lateral distances between aircraft during flight.

DARPA is planning another phase of the effort, which includes joint funding from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), officials say. This follow-on research would shrink the system size; further test the ranging and collision-avoidance features; mature additional capabilities of the system such as detecting aircraft below the horizon and in poor light conditions; and improve calculations for optimal aircraft trajectories to avert collision.


The goal of the ALIAS program is to have a tailorable, drop-in, removable kit that would enable high levels of automation in existing aircraft and reduce the crew size. The system could 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 that are part of the federal NextGen effort.

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