Oklahoma-based Vigilant Aerospace has completed successful beyond visual line- of-sight (BVLOS) flight testing of its new FlightHorizon detect-and-avoid collision avoidance system for drones at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The tests demonstrated the system’s ability to provide BVLOS flight safety for both small and mid-sized unmanned aircraft
The flights tested the system’s detect-and-avoid (DAA) algorithms, hardware integration and user interface performance. Tests included nearly 100 scripted encounters between unmanned aircraft under realistic flight conditions. The system successfully detected and tracked intruder aircraft, providing traffic alerts and collision warnings on 100% of air traffic during the encounters.
Eighteen different scenarios were flown multiple times using two DJI Phantom 4 drones. One aircraft acted as the primary while the other acted as an intruder aircraft. The scenarios triggered the system’s traffic alerts, threat alerts and collision warnings, allowing the drone pilots to avoid collisions between the aircraft. The encounters included BVLOS flights that simulated real-world scenarios in which visual detection of approaching aircraft by ground-based unmanned pilots might not be possible due to distance, weather, altitude and speed.
The tests were observed by the FAA’s senior UAV regulator, by an FCC observer to monitor radio transmissions, and were the culmination of a multi-month program of development, safety planning and test preparation, concluding in December, 2016.
Vigilant Aerospace has exclusively licensed the NASA patent and software which forms the basis for the company’s FlightHorizon product and was invented by Dr. Ricardo Arteaga at NASA Armstrong. A significant advantage of the FlightHorizon system is that it utilizes off-the-shelf hardware, uses the existing national air-traffic control system and can be used on both smaller and larger UAVs.
The detect-and-avoid system is an important part of the effort to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace and to make BVLOS drones safe to share airspace with manned aircraft. FlightHorizon is designed to comply with FAA drone regulations on BVLOS flight, night flying and airspace authorization including Part 107.200 waiver requirements and RTCA SC-228 operating standards. All transponder data was logged in FlightHorizon and is being used by NASA and Vigilant Aerospace to continue to improve and add new features to the system.
Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc. is a provider of industry-leading next-generation flight management and safety systems to provide situational awareness, synthetic cockpit views, collision avoidance and other flight information to enable integration of commercial drones into the national airspace.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.