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Vigilant Aerospace secures military contract to develop detect-and-avoid system

November 8, 2023  - By
Image: Vigilant Aerospace

Vigilant Aerospace Systems, a provider of multi-sensor detect-and-avoid safety systems for UAVs and advanced air mobility (AAM), has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Air Force to develop a detect-and-avoid system for the Air Force’s new long-endurance UAV.

According to the published project description, the objective is to “integrate a mature detect and avoid capability on an existing long-endurance, Group V UAS platform, for increased aircraft and pilot-in-the-loop operational awareness that leverages new and evolving C-SWaP sensors and sensor fusion software.”

The project is sponsored by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and is a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project through the SBIR program. The program is designed to bring dual-use technologies, which can help both civilian and military users, into the military, with a focus on high-impact, near-term implementations.

FlightHorizon is detect-and-avoid and airspace management software that combines data from aircraft transponders, radar, UAV autopilots and live Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data to create a single picture of the airspace around a UAV. The software displays air traffic, predicts trajectories and provides avoidance commands to the remote pilot or autopilot. The system can be used on the ground or onboard the UAV and can be configured for any size of aircraft.

The software is based on two licensed NASA patents and the company has completed contracts with NASA, the FAA and a project with the USAF’s 49th Operating Group’s MQ-9 Reaper fleet to track training flights. It is designed to meet industry technical standards and to help UAS operators fly beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS).

The new Air Force project incorporates prior research and development by the company in solving the automatic self-separation and collision avoidance problem for UAVs. To evaluate sensors and algorithms and establish standards-compliance and risk ratios, the company has completed hundreds of hours of flight tests with the system and thousands of simulated aircraft encounters inside the software’s built-in simulation engine, according to Vigilant Aerospace Systems.

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