Successful testing of a sense-and-avoid anti-collision radar designed originally for general aviation could lead to a US Air Force Research Laboratory contract for its further development and possible future use on the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Designed by Flight Safety Technologies, the Unicorn collision-avoidance radar does not require transponders on either the host or threat aircraft and would provide an autonomous sense-and-avoid function for UAVs like the Global Hawk.

The radar has already been developed to a technological readiness level of 4-5 by Flight Safety Technologies, which has tested a breadboard system in a relevant environment. If awarded, the two-year AFRL contract would see the airborne demonstration of a prototype by late 2009.

The breadboard test already completed involved mounting the Unicorn radar on top of a tower at project partner Georgia Institute of Technology and flying a light aircraft around the sensor.

"The approach is crawl, walk, run. We have been invited [by AFRL] to bid for a Phase 2 contract," says Unicorn programme manager Bob Cooperman. The tower test showed the radar could detect a threat in all directions, he says.. The radar is not electronically steered, Cooperman says, but has no moving parts.

The company, whose headquarters are in Mystic, Connecticut, has previously won a Phase 1 small business innovation research contract worth from AFRL about $100,000 to conduct a feasibility study on how to use the Unicorn with the Global Hawk.

Source: Flight International