Avoiding midair crises

DIG IT AWARD FINALIST: Robotics, automation and UAS

Avoiding midair crises

With the recent onslaught of unmanned aircraft, the skies over the United States are becoming more crowded and potentially dangerous. But a new system from researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency aims to prevent collisions.

Dig IT Award Finalists

The GCN Dig IT Awards celebrate discovery and innovation in government IT.

There are 36 finalists this year. Each will be profiled in the coming days, and the winners for each category will be announced at the Oct. 13 Dig IT Awards gala.

See the full list of 2016 Dig IT Award Finalists

The Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS), developed and tested by DARPA, will provide reliable sense-and-avoid technology to allow aircrews to detect and track when they are approaching other aircraft. Using a small plug-and-play system that fits in a drone, DARPA successfully tested the effectiveness of ALIAS earlier this year with a Cessna 172G aircraft approaching an unmanned aerial system from multiple angles.

The compact, low-cost solution is equipped with an optical camera that provides imagery for detection and tracking, and it has passive ranging features that assess the flight paths of incoming aircraft. In the future, researchers anticipate that ALIAS will evolve into a smaller, customized, removable kit, which could allow for greater automation and fewer onboard crew members.

“What pilot wouldn’t want to set a box on their dashboard that would provide an additional pair of eyes to alert of potential collisions?” asked Daniel Patt, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “This [sense-and-avoid] system has the potential to enable a wide range of manned and unmanned systems to safely integrate into an increasingly populated and complex airspace.”

About the Author

Karen Epper Hoffman is a freelance writer based in the Seattle area.

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