Risks posed by sUAS to manned aircraft continue to increase as sUAS operations expand. The proposed innovation, the sUAS Collision Avoidance System (sUCAS), will be a plugin to existing collision avoidance systems, specifically for general aviation pilots to mitigate collision risk with sUAS. sUCAS will take advantage of the position data broadcast by sUAS – a likely, forthcoming requirement of the FAA’s Remote ID policy – to present timely and informational situational awareness and maneuver guidance to augment a pilot’s see-and-avoid capability. The ultimate vision for the proposed innovation is to exist as a collision avoidance supplement to an established flight planning software application, such as ForeFlight, living within a pilot’s electronic flight bag. The proposed innovation would combine the best of breed of Detect and Avoid (DAA) technologies, including the established science of DAA for larger aircraft and the to-be-determined science for sUAS. To be clear about the role of sUCAS, it is important to note that the proposed innovation would not supersede a pilot’s responsibility to perform see-and-avoid duties, but rather augment the pilot’s capability to do so.
In the course of the effort, the team will design and develop a DAA research testbed specialized for manned aircraft encounters with sUAS. Using the testbed, the team will evaluate the efficacy of existing DAA technology for manned vs. sUAS encounters and the efficacy of novel sUAS DAA technologies the team devises, such as reverse proportional navigation theories. A primary technical objective of the research is to help define minimum operational performance standards for the FAA’s Remote ID broadcast range. In its proposed policy, the FAA chose not to define the broadcast range, leaving it up to industry. Its definition has huge implications for the future of aviation safety, where longer ranges place a higher burden on sUAS manufacturers but enable a wide range of safety mechanisms.
sUCAS applications within NASA include projects falling under the Airspace Operation and Safety program, especially those oriented towards future aviation systems like UAM and ATM-X which have goals to safely accommodate emergent air vehicles.
Potential non-government markets include general aviation customers who operate aircraft that fly more frequently in relatively lower altitudes where sUAS are more likely to be encountered. This target market includes single- and twin-piston and single- and twin-turboprop certified light aircraft such as the Cessna Skyhawk and Cirrus SR models.