US Navy researchers have announced a new contract aimed at developing a "sense and avoid" system that would allow unmanned air vehicles to fly in airspace regulated by the US Federal Aviation Administration.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is asking bidders to submit white papers by 1 April 2010 and full proposals by 3 August. Each document must describe how the bidders propose to solve one of unmanned aviation's biggest technical challenges and barriers to future growth.
The autonomous collision avoidance system must fit inside a 4.5-6.8kg (10-15lb) package, consume no more than 500W at peak power and not increase the UAV's drag.
The sensor system must provide spherical coverage of between 5km (2.7nm) and 10km around the UAV, but focus especially on "non-cooperative" aircraft, which lack transponders, flying towards the aircraft's nose.
The ONR plans to install the sense and avoid system on small tactical unmanned air systems (STUAS). With a major contract to supply the STUAS/Tier II system for the US Navy and US Marine Corps still in competition, the office has selected the AAI RQ-7 Shadow UAV and Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter for its demonstration.
Bidders will be allowed to use the mission sensors already installed on the Shadow and Fire Scout air vehicles as part of their sense and avoid packages.