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Vigilant Aerospace Systems has signed a new license agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) extending the company’s existing detect-and-avoid and radar technology patent licenses to include military aviation applications.

This new license agreement allows the company to provide air traffic detection, tracking and automatic avoidance for unmanned military aircraft using its FlightHorizon family of products. The prior licenses included civilian aviation.

The company exclusively licensed NASA’s Patent No. 9,405,005 in 2016 and added NASA Patent No. 10,302,759 in June 2020, which expanded the innovations to include the use of radar and detect-and-avoid systems for unmanned aircraft. The two patents formed the basis for the company’s award-winning FlightHorizon products. The new license agreement with NASA extends the use of these innovations to include all military aviation.

NASA Ikhana, a civilian General Atomics Predator-B, preparing for testing at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. (Photo: NASA)

“We believe this is the right time to bring our technology to US defense agencies in order to improve safety, increase autonomy and facilitate better integration into the US national airspace. The addition of this new agreement is an important milestone in the development of the industry and provides an avenue for additional use of these innovations in US aerospace” said Kraettli L. Epperson, CEO of Vigilant Aerospace.

“These NASA innovations were initially developed and tested with the NASA Ikhana aircraft, which is a civilian General Atomics Predator B variant. NASA has published research papers on the effectiveness of this patented technology for providing detect-and-avoid with this aircraft,” said Epperson.

“NASA has also conducted research and published papers using our new FlightHorizonX product for tracking supersonic aircraft and spacecraft using the new NASA supersonic transponder prototype,” said Epperson.

“These autonomous safety technologies are vital to the future of unmanned military aircraft because they allow these UAS to see other air traffic, track those aircraft and take appropriate avoidance maneuvers, even if the UAS cannot be reached by the pilot. Automatic detect-and-avoid provides an additional level of safety, which is critical for enabling beyond visual line-of-sight flight,” said Epperson.

NASA Engineer Ricardo Arteaga and Vigilant Aerospace CEO Kraettli Epperson on-site for beyond line-of-sight testing at NASA Armstrong

The original NASA patent licensed by the company (Patent No. 9,405,005) covers innovations related to detect-and-avoid for unmanned aircraft including inventions around user interface design for collision avoidance systems for unmanned aircraft and integration of transponders into unmanned aircraft, among several other innovations.

The second licensed patent (Patent No. 10,302,759) covers the use of radar to extract target data for detect-and-avoid purposes on an unmanned aircraft; fusing of radar target data with data from other sources to confirm targets; storage and processing of consolidated target data on-board the aircraft; the use of fused data on-board the aircraft for avoidance purposes; innovations around dynamically and automatically switching from ground-based to on-board sensors based on link availability; and the use of an on-board detect-and-avoid computer, among other innovations.

Interested parties should contact the company to discuss FlightHorizon, collaboration and partnerships.

Vigilant Aerospace - FlightHorizon logo high res.

The FlightHorizon System

Vigilant Aerospace Systems provides the FlightHorizon family of detect-and-avoid and airspace management products. The FlightHorizon system provides air traffic monitoring and avoidance advisories to help drones maintain required well-clear distances from other aircraft and is designed to allow for safe drone flight beyond the visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) of the pilot.

The company’s primary product is currently being used in multiple NASA and FAA projects, is used by multiple FAA Integration Pilot Project (IPP) teams, and the company has co-authored multiple research papers on the system with NASA. The company has obtained a US State Department Commodity Jurisdiction (CJ) ruling to allow for export of the product outside the US without additional licensing, in most cases.

Licensed Patents

  • U.S. Patent No. 9,405,005 – “Automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) system for ownership and traffic situational awareness”
    • Google Patents [Link]
    • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) [Link]
      • Abstract:The present invention proposes an automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) architecture and process, in which priority aircraft and ADS-B IN traffic information are included in the transmission of data through the telemetry communications to a remote ground control station. The present invention further proposes methods for displaying general aviation traffic information in three and/or four dimension trajectories using an industry standard Earth browser for increased situation awareness and enhanced visual acquisition of traffic for conflict detection. The present invention enable the applications of enhanced visual acquisition of traffic, traffic alerts, and en-route and terminal surveillance used to augment pilot situational awareness through ADS-B IN display and information in three or four dimensions for self-separation awareness.
  • U.S. Patent No. 10,302,759 – “Automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) system with radar for ownship and traffic situational awareness”
    • Google Patents [Link]
    • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) [Link]
      • Abstract:The present invention proposes an automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) architecture and process, in which priority aircraft and ADS-B IN and radar traffic information are included in the transmission of data through the telemetry communications to a remote ground control station. The present invention further proposes methods for displaying general aviation traffic information in three and/or four dimension trajectories using an industry standard Earth browser for increased situation awareness and enhanced visual acquisition of traffic for conflict detection. The present invention enable the applications of enhanced visual acquisition of traffic, traffic alerts, and en-route and terminal surveillance used to augment pilot situational awareness through ADS-B IN display and information in three or four dimensions for self-separation awareness.

Previous NASA-related Vigilant Aerospace announcements:

 

Prior Media Coverage:

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