AUVSI: New radar on tap for BAMS sense and avoid

Washington DC
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The US Navy and Northrop Grumman in November will hold a preliminary design review for a "due regard" system that is to be the core of the sense and avoid capabilities for the US Navy's broad area maritime surveillance system (BAMS) RQ-4B variant Global Hawk. The review is one of 14 subsystem PDRs that will precede the system level review of BAMS slated for January.

Complicating the timeline for the review is the selection of an air-to-air radar for the sense and avoid system. Speaking at the show yesterday, Navy Capt Robert Dishman, program manager for the Navy's persistent maritime unmanned aircraft systems office (PMA-262), said proposals from as many as seven bidders on the new radar are due Friday, after which the program must choose a winner.

The original sense and avoid radar, which Dishman did not identify, was being evaluated by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on a surrogate aircraft. "AFRL realized the radar would not meet the requirements," said Dishman.

The Navy is considering a phased approach to due regard, with operators playing a progressively smaller role in conflict resolution. Dishman says the "pathway" to autonomous sense and avoid will start with ground based pilots, who will de-conflict aircraft through manoeuvres using the output of the airborne radar. Later, an onboard algorithm will compute recommended manoeuvres which the pilot will accept or decline. Finally in fully autonomous mode, Dishman says the pilot will be given the opportunity to perform an avoidance maneuver but the aircraft will have final authority over whether an action is taken.

The BAMS program of record calls for initial operating capability of the maritime Global Hawk fleet in 2015 and full operating capability in 2019.