Texas UAS Site tests sense-and-avoid technology

By Emily Aasand | March 11, 2015

On March 4 and 6, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems research center (LSUASC) conducted flight operations to test a ground-based sense-and-avoid radar system designed to identify small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) in a specific airspace.

SRC Inc., a New York-based research and development company, went to South Texas to demonstrate the capabilities of a ground-based sense-and-avoid radar that helps provide information to determine whether non-test aircraft or birds had entered the UAS area of test operation. The exercise included working closely with aircraft operating in and around the airport, the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard, the Customs and Border Protection Agency and LSUASC personnel working closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control operators.

 “SRC looks forward to supporting LSUASC test ranges with state-of-the-art sense-and-avoid technology. Our ground sensors and algorithms provide the foundation for research and development needed to allow safe integration of the UAS into the national airspace system,” said Bob Alger, director of business development for SRC. “SRC’s expertise is in leveraging our radar technology and software algorithm advancements for the detection and tracking of small and slow UAS.”

The flights occurred using the university’s RS-16 unmanned vehicle, which has a 13-foot wingspan and a maximum weight of 85 pounds. The missions took place at altitudes up to 3,000 feet and over a distance of 18 miles, according to the university. The operations were based at the Charles R. Johnson Airport in Port Mansfield and with flights operated by the Willacy County Navigation District.

One goal of last week’s flight, was to test the effectiveness of a helicopter as a chase vehicle, said the university, adding that previous test flights used a small piloted-plane that overheated while tracking the much slower RS-16.

“We were able to conduct three good flights this week, allowing us to test and refine our capabilities with the RS-16,” said David Bridges, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the university’s UAS program. “It is also our first time to fly with an FAA registration number that identifies our craft just like all manned aircraft.”

“This was the first flight of many tests and collaborations to assist in defining the architecture needed to operate with different sense-and-avoid technologies,” said Jerry Hendrix, LSUASC chief engineer.

Along with testing sense-and-avoid technology, the mission also collected 3-D imagery of the Laguna Madre shoreline and the Gulf of Mexico for researchers at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The RS-16 aircraft traveled several miles out over the Gulf of Mexico and several miles along the Intracoastal Waterway.


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