NASA's UAV applications centre is developing a ground-based autopilot system to provide local-area deconfliction for small unmanned air vehicles operating in non-segregated airspace.

NASA sees the approach as a means of overcoming practical limitations on fitting sense and avoid hardware to small UAVs, particularly air vehicles operating in low-altitude, long-endurance (LALE) flight profiles over urban areas.

The autopilot system comprises a ground-mounted Lockheed Martin LSDIS portable radar with track data integrated into the UAV navigation plot and mission control system. Fusion of the radar track data with the air vehicle autopilot system is intended to facilitate automatic deconflictions as well as enhanced operator situational awareness. The LSDIS radar is a two-dimensional system derived from the Lockheed Martin PSTAR system and has a maximum range of 20km (11nm).

NASA has demonstrated the system in two sets of trials in California during the past year and plans a further trial in April 2005 as part of a demonstration of using a LALE UAV to perform night- time frost damage monitoring of vineyards in southern California.

Source: Flight International