ARLINGTON, Va., April 6 (UPI) -- A new shoebox-sized plug-and-play system for aircraft to detect and avoid mid-air collisions successfully completed its first flight test.
DARPA, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said the device is part of its research effort for its Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS.
The integrated sense-and-avoid system features a single optical camera that provides imagery for detection and tracking and incorporates passive ranging features that assess the likelihood of an incoming aircraft intersecting the flight path of its host aircraft, and collision-avoidance capabilities to determine the best way to steer the host aircraft out of harm's way.
In recent flight testing, an unmanned air vehicle repeatedly used the technology demonstration system to detect and track in real time a Cessna 172G aircraft approaching from various vertical and horizontal distances.
"This successful flight test is a step toward adding external perception to ALIAS' toolkit for advancing in-flight automation," said DARPA's Dan Patt. "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?
"This SAA system has the potential to enable a wide range of manned and unmanned systems to safely integrate into an increasingly populated and complex airspace."
DARPA has been developing this capability over the past two years. Based on the success of the test flights it plans additional research and development efforts. Those efforts will include shrinking the size of the system, testing range and collision-avoidance features, and maturing additional capabilities, such as detecting aircraft below the horizon and in poor light conditions.