Sierra Nevada Corp. to develop Navy collision-avoidance system to enable UAVs to operate in civil airspace

ARLINGTON, Va., 8 Oct. 2010. U.S. Navy researchers are asking engineers at Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, Nev., to develop an aircraft collision-avoidance system to enable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to operate in civil airspace without the risk of crashing into other aircraft, under terms of a $6.2 million contract awarded Thursday from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va. ONR awarded the contract to Sierra Nevada as part of the Unmanned Air System (UAS) Autonomous Collision Avoidance System (ACAS).

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ARLINGTON, Va., 8 Oct. 2010. U.S. Navy researchers are asking engineers at Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, Nev., to develop an aircraft collision-avoidance system to enable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to operate in civil airspace without the risk of crashing into other aircraft, under terms of a $6.2 million contract awarded Thursday from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va.

ONR awarded the UAV collision avoidance contract to Sierra Nevada as part of the Unmanned Air System (UAS) Autonomous Collision Avoidance System (ACAS) program to enable unmanned aircraft to sense and avoid other manned and unmanned aircraft while operating in the National Air Space System (NAS) -- whether or not the other aircraft have their own collision-avoidance equipment like transponders, TCAS, or other systems.

Sierra Nevada's initial research to develop a UAV collision-avoidance system will focus on the Navy MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, and the Army Tier 2 RQ-7A/B Shadow 200 small fixed-wing UAV.

ONR scientists are asking Sierra Nevada to develop a system that enables UAVs to observe the right-of-way rules developed for manned aircraft -- especially on enabling UAVs to see and avoid other fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, aerostats, gliders, balloons, and other kinds of aircraft.

Air Force researchers are pursuing a similar initiative called the Multi-Vehicle Unmanned Aircraft Systems Sense And Avoid (MUSAA) program, for which the Air Force Research Laboratory awarded a contract in September to Barron Associates Inc. in Charlottesville, Va., and AeroMech Engineering Inc. in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The sense and avoid capability necessary for the UAV to operate safely alongside other aircraft in civil airspace will require several advances in size, weight, and power (SWAP), as well as cost for sensing systems, and improvements in the algorithms that can generate UAV platform course corrections reliably, ONR officials point out. Additional weight to be allowed on the UAVs is no more than 15 pounds.

Sierra Nevada experts will tailor signal-processing computer hardware and software to the sense capabilities and the individual UAV performance limitations on avoid maneuvers. Sierra Nevada Corp. is perhaps best known for developing and producing the Pentagon's Joint Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare (JCREW), which are electronic jammers designed to prevent detonation of radio-controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Sierra Nevada engineers may use the radar system electro-optical, and infrared sensors aboard the Fire Scout and Shadow UAVs to address part of the of air targets sense requirements, yet they may not exceed 10 to 15 additional pounds total weight, or consume more than 300 Watts average (500 Watts peak) of power to provide additional capability.

Navy researchers want Sierra Nevada to develop a sense system to provide situational awareness of all cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft operating in the vicinity of the UAV; algorithms and software to process sensor data to produce avoid maneuvers; and collision-avoidance capability based on processed sense information and avoid algorithms.

For more information contact ONR online at www.onr.navy.mil, or Sierra Nevada Corp. at www.sncorp.com.

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