A new NASA report profiles three projects in which the agency has used Vigilant Aerospace’s FlightHorizon software to (1) demonstrate detect-and-avoid capabilities to advance integration of unmanned aircraft into the US national airspace; (2) help in development of supersonic aircraft technologies; and (3) in the development of new lightweight aircraft antennas.
The report mentions the use of FlightHorizon to provide portable, real-time airspace situational awareness for disaster relief flights after Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area in September, 2017, and outlines specific benefits of the software for the future of unmanned aircraft systems and integration into the US national airspace.
Also, the report lays out NASA Armstrong’s overall mission to enable autonomous systems and improve the safety of the national airspace:
“Armstrong is contributing to NASA’s Roadmap for Robotics, Tele-Robotics, and Autonomous Systems through research in a wide range of areas, such as artificial intelligence, advanced flight control laws, new testing methods, collision avoidance technologies, and much more. Armstrong’s pioneering research into lifesaving collision avoidance technologies has the potential to be applied beyond aviation and could be adapted for use in any vehicle that has to avoid a collision threat, including aerospace satellites, automobiles, marine vehicles, and more.”
The report, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s Research, Technology, and Engineering Report 2017 [PDF] includes descriptions of the three projects and also mentions upcoming research using FlightHorizon.
Here is an extract containing the profiles of our projects with NASA: Armstrong Flight Research Center Research_Technology_and Engineering Report 2017 – Autonomous Systems_ADS-B [PDF]
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Detect-and-Avoid
NASA and Vigilant Aerospace collaborated on flight demonstrations in late 2016 and published research in 2017 and 2018 on the use of the FlightHorizon software to provide detect-and-avoid capabilities to unmanned aircraft:
“Innovators at Armstrong and Vigilant Aerospace Systems collaborated for the flight test demonstration of an integrated ADS-B-based collision avoidance technology on a small unmanned aerial system (UAS) equipped with a micro ADS-B transceiver. The ADS-B Detect-and-Avoid (DAA) system is capable of providing small UAS with air-to-air collision avoidance against manned or unmanned vehicles.”
NASA considered the tests to be highly successful:
“Armstrong and Vigilant Aerospace successfully flight tested the ADS-B DAA system in December 2016 on the DJI Phantom 4 quadrotor small UAS to further develop the technology in three key areas: flight beyond visual line of sight, collision avoidance, and autonomous operations.”
The flight tests resulted in the publication of an AIAA SciTech paper on the project in 2018: NASA Publishes Paper at the 2018 AIAA SciTech Forum on BVLOS Flight Testing of FlightHorizon Detect-and-Avoid System
Here is a video about our detect-and-avoid flight tests at NASA Armstrong:
The report also described the use of FlightHorizon in disaster relief flights carried out in the wake of Hurricane Harvey on the Texas Gulf Coast in September 2017:
“Vigilant Aerospace joined unmanned aircraft response team [Humanitarian-Drones.org] in Houston after Hurricane Harvey [who] used this technology to provide damage assessment and data collection services to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as it assessed flood damage in the greater Gulf Coast region.”
Supersonic Aircraft Development
FlightHorizon is also being used to provide airspace monitoring, situational awareness, data collection and flight logging for NASA supersonic aircraft test flights, inspiring our development of our new FlightHorizon COMMANDER product.
We recently announced that FlightHorizon had been used in the 2017 SonicBAT supersonic research flights at both NASA Armstrong and for offshore flights from NASA Kennedy to test new supersonic aircraft (FlightHorizon Used in NASA SonicBAT Research Flights for Situational Awareness, Airspace Logging) and the system was also chosen to provide airspace monitoring, flight logging and other features for NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology program (FlightHorizon Selected by NASA Commercial Supersonic Technology Program 2018-2019 for Airspace Situational Awareness, Flight Logging).
The report mentions future use of our new product, FlightHorizon COMMANDER, to provide a ground control station for the flights:
“The team is also working to demonstrate a similar system on Boeing F/A-18 and F-15 platforms for supersonic flight operations.”
Learn all about NASA Armstrong’s Commercial Supersonic Commercial Technology program here: Commercial Supersonic Technology Program at NASA Armstrong
Video overview of the program:
Lightweight Conformal Antenna Design
Finally, the report mentions the use of FlightHorizon in the development of a new lightweight conformal antenna design. In this project, FlightHorizon is being used to help monitor aircraft and to steer ground-based tracking systems to remain on-target: “The team is working to develop an ADS-B ground station for NASA’s Conformal Lightweight Antenna Structures project, which is developing antennas that enable beyond-line-of-sight command and control for UAS.”
See the full program profile here: Conformal Lightweight Antenna Structures for Aeronautical Communication Technologies
Watch a video about the new antenna design here:
FlightHorizon is a complete autonomous detect-and-avoid and airspace management solution to deliver situational awareness, and commands to self-separate and maintain well-clear distances for both piloted and autonomous unmanned aircraft. The software provides unmanned aircraft pilots with a 2D map-based view and 3D synthetic cockpit view of the airspace and full sensor fusion across aviation transponders, radars and online data feeds. The system is designed to help operators maintain flight safety and achieve beyond visual line-of-sight flight authorizations. Visit our Products and Services Overview for more information on FlightHorizon.