WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Northrop Grumman said this week it is applying "sense and avoid" technology to its unmanned aircraft.
SAA will "make it safer for unmanned aircraft to share airspace with piloted aircraft (and) is an important element of the company's solution for the U.S. Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program," the company said in a statement Monday.
BAMS unmanned aircraft require "due regard," which is "the ability to ensure that the unmanned aircraft can operate safely with other aircraft when outside controlled airspace not under normal flight procedures," the statement said. "Northrop Grumman has been working with the government on sense-and-avoid technologies for more than five years," it said.
Northrop Grumman said its BAMS technology "features a maritime derivative of the proven RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft with Navy-specific sensors and ground stations."
"For the BAMS due regard requirement, Northrop Grumman has proposed a low-risk, cost-effective systems solution with on-board radar as the primary sensor and additional data sources in the Mission Control System to assist the unmanned aircraft pilot on the ground," the company said.
"The challenge is that once the unmanned aircraft has detected another aircraft as a potential collision threat, the unmanned aircraft pilot has little time to respond," said Carl Johnson, vice president and Northrop Grumman's BAMS program manager. "You need a fail-safe solution to guarantee avoidance, so we have developed algorithms to assist the pilot in choosing the right maneuver. We've found the best way is to combine the features of radar and an electro-optical sensor. This electro-optical sensor can generate visual images to provide the equivalent of human sight.
"Initially, because the radar is more mature, it will be the primary sensor for collision avoidance, but electro-optical sensors will be added to meet sense-and-avoid requirements still being developed by the Federal Aviation Administration," Johnson said.