RDRTec to develop sense-and-avoid radar for Fire Scout and Triton unmanned aircraft

June 23, 2014
LAKEHURST, N.J., 23 June 2014. U.S. Navy avionics experts are overseeing a program to create a radar system to enable unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to sense and avoid nearby aircraft to avoid mid-air collisions and other difficulties caused by airborne close encounters.
LAKEHURST, N.J., 23 June 2014. U.S. Navy avionics experts are overseeing a program to create a radar system to enable unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to sense and avoid nearby aircraft to avoid mid-air collisions and other difficulties caused by airborne close encounters.

Officials of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division-Lakehurst in Lakehurst, N.J., are asking radar experts at RDRTec Inc. in Dallas to design a sense-and-avoid radar system for the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and the MQ-4C Triton unmanned reconnaissance aircraft under terms of a $3 million contract awarded last week.

RDRTec experts will evolve and transition the Radar Autonomous Collisions Avoidance System (RACAS) Sense and Avoid (SAA) radar technology into the Common RACAS (C-RACAS) that fulfills both the Fire Scout and Triton UAS.

The sense-and-avoid radar that will be common to the two UASs is to help the unmanned aircraft avoid collisions with other aircraft with the UASs are not in contact, Navy officials say. The goal of the project is to enhance efficiency in airspace integration.

Related: Engineers present unmanned aircraft sense-and-avoid, integrated modular avionics R&D, flight test results at Avionics Europe

The Fire Scout and Triton UASs are manufactured by the Northrop Grumman Corp. Aerospace Systems segment in Rancho Bernardo, Calif.

The Fire Scout is an unmanned autonomous helicopter designed to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, aerial fire support, and precision targeting support for ground, air, and sea forces. The initial RQ-8A version was based on the Schweizer 330, while the enhanced MQ-8B was derived from the Schweizer 333. The larger MQ-8C variant is based on the Bell 407 helicopter.

The Triton is a version of the Northrop Grumman RQ-4C Global Hawk long-range high-altitude reconnaissance UAS adapted for maritime patrol in a support role to the Navy P-8 Poseidon manned maritime patrol jet. The Triton was developed under the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program.

The Triton will provide real-time intelligence, reconnaissance missions (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions,continuous maritime surveillance, as well as search and rescue missions. The UAS will be able to descend through cloud layers to gain close views of ships and other targets at sea when needed. It will track ships and submarines over time by gathering information on their speed, location, and classification.

The contract to RDRTec is part of a Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) program of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va.

Related: Sierra Nevada completes second sense-and-avoid radar sensor flight demonstration

RDRTec specializes in solutions to difficult radar problems involving active electronically scanned arrays (AESA); airborne early warning; anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and missile systems, company officials say.

The company has expertise in low, medium and high pulsed-Doppler, synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indicator, inverse synthetic aperture radar, and detection and tracking of small maritime targets.

In a separate Navy project, RDRTec experts developed radar sense-and-avoid technologies for the Fire Scout UAS using advanced AESA technology and proprietary signal processing to provide actionable collision warning information with lead times longer than 30 seconds involving non-cooperative aircraft moving as fast as 400 knots.

When it comes to AESA radar, RDRTec Inc. is developing adaptive multi-channel phased array manifold radar technology that reconfigures by radar mode for optimum performance.

Related: Air Force kicks off sensor-fusion program to help UAVs sense and avoid other aircraft in shared airspace

Company experts are focusing on multi-mode X or C-band radars with phased arrays that support modes with high and low bandwidth requirements. High bandwidth modes include synthetic aperture radar (SAR), inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR), and high range resolution (HRR). Relatively low bandwidth modes include ground moving target indicator (GMTI), maritime moving target indicator (MMTI), air-to-air (AA) and sense and avoid (SAA) modes.

RDRTec experts have developed these kinds of technologies and capabilities for the Fire Scout UAS, yet are moving the technologies to other future Navy ISR radars, such as that on the Triton UAS.

For more information contact RDRTec online at www.rdrtec.com, the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division-Lakehurst at www.navair.navy.mil, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems at www.northropgrumman.com, or the Office of Naval Research at www.onr.navy.mil.

About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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