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GCN : August 2013
EMERGING TECH SENSOR SYSTEMS forts under way to develop an integrated system for UAVs is the Mid-Air Collision Avoidance System (MIDCAS), which is being developed by five Euro- pean countries --- Sweden, Germany, France, Italy and Spain --- and 11 industrial partners. The four-year, $65 million project is expected by 2014 to deliver an automated sense-and-avoid sys- tem that will not depend on transponders. While it is being designed to integrate ADS-B, MIDCAS also in- cludes two visible-band electro-optical cameras and one infrared camera for aircraft to use in identifying other aircraft. In addition, the team's developers are designing image-processing algorithms, processing units and integration with on-board avionics. Key to the project, said Saab Aerosystems' Johan Pellebergs, MIDCAS project manager, is developing a generic set of sensors and processing modules. "By generic, we mean that it should be able to work on any type of UAS," Pellebergs said. "It should be adaptable. So we try to keep all of the vehicle- specific parts well contained so that they can eas- ily be adapted to all the different types. The variety in UAS is very big, ranging from the Global Hawk, which is very big, all the way down to small ones that you can hold in your hand." READY FOR A TEST FLIGHT Pellebergs said the international team has devel- oped a prototype system and is ready to test it on a manned aircraft. "The collision avoidance part is fully automatic," he said. "The remote pilot does not need to do anything. If the system detects some- thing, it calculates when it needs to activate. And when the aircraft gets to that point, it triggers and executes the moves automatically." It is the system's control over evasive maneuvers that requires adaptability to each model of UAV. "That's where the vehicle specifics come in," Pelle- bergs said. "You need to be able to model the perfor- mance and limitations of each of the vehicles. There are large differences between air speed and maneu- verability in these vehicles." That's one reason MIDCAS is working closely with manufacturers of UAVs and sensors. Another challenge has been designing the soft- ware to process the various sensor data. According to Pellebergs, "The data fusion module takes the information from different sensors and makes one picture. Then it is sent over to the avoid part, where you calculate the maneuvers and execute them. It also sends information down to the ground control station." Of course, the hazards for aircraft --- manned and Current FAA regulations o er two avenues for approval for UAV operations. First, operators can apply for an experimental airworthiness certificate for private-sector civil aircraft to do research and development, training and flight demonstrations. The second avenue requires operators to obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) for public aircraft, which are those that are owned by the U.S. government or a state. Routine operation of UAVs over densely populated areas is prohibited. According to FAA documentation, most COAs require coordination with an air tra c control facility. Additionally the FAA may require an active transponder on the aircraft if it operates in certain types of airspace. Finally, an observer on the ground or in an accompanying chase plane must maintain visual contact with the UAV. Many of the COAs issued to date have gone to federal, state and local government agencies, as well as to universities conducting research, FAA says. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, uses drones for border monitoring. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use them for atmospheric and other research. Virginia Tech is using drones for mapping and study of agricultural diseases, and scientists from several universities are researching pygmy rabbit habitats in eastern and central Idaho. Current work on developing and deploying sense-and-avoid technologies could lead to wider use of drones, though that will also depend on FAA regulations. --- Patrick Marshall THE FAA'S RULES ON DOMESTIC UAV FLIGHTS ACTIVE COAs BY YEAR 146 2009 298 2010 313 2011 257 2012 20 GCN AUGUST 2013 • GCN.COM