The Air Force wants to add sense and avoid technology to RPAs such as the Predator.

Unmanned Systems

Air Force wants sense and avoid technology for large drones

One of the most critical components for large remotely piloted aircraft, or drones, such as the Predator and Reaper that operate beyond line of sight of the operator are the ability to sense and avoid objects during flight. And for  operation within the U.S. airspace, the inclusion of sense and avoid technology on devices, such as the drones retailer Amazon wants to deploy to deliver packages, are a stumbling block for larger adoption.

The Air Force has released a request for information notice requesting such sense and avoid technologies for large RPAs – Predators and Global Hawks – though the notice said that respondents are encouraged to include sense and avoid technologies for smaller RPA such as the hand-launched Wasp and Raven.

The goal of the notice is to identify the technologies available for RPAs, including commercial-off-the shelf and government-off-the-shelf solutions as well as technologies under development.

The ability of unmanned aircraft to sense its surroundings and avoid obstacles and other craft is seen as a key enhancement for RPAs as well as essential to any kind of autonomous or semi-autonomous systems, whether military or commercial. Domestically, the Federal Aviation Administration requires sense and avoid technology for any flights that take place beyond the operator’s line of sight. 

According to the notice, responses are expected to address issues including, but not limited to:

  • Strategies for airworthiness certification and operational approval of the proposed solution.
  • Information assurance and cyber security implementation.
  • Solution characteristics of open systems and open architectures.
  • Strategies for adherence / certification to quality management practices.
  • Technology readiness level.
  • Manufacturing readiness level.
  • Strategies for reliability and maintainability.
  • Strategies for system security and survivability.
  • Strategies for addressing critical program information.

Responses are due by Feb 15, 2016. 

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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