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Airborne Radar Guides Unmanned-Aircraft Systems
Boeing and subsidiaries recently conducted experiments to evaluate the effectiveness of radar onboard unmanned aircraft to ensure collision avoidance with other manned and unmanned aircraft. (Courtesy of Aurora Flight Systems)

Airborne Radar Guides Unmanned-Aircraft Systems

Flight experiments were conducted to learn more about the use of airborne radar to prevent collisions between manned and unmanned aircraft.

Unmanned aircraft (UA) are quickly becoming integral tools in defense systems. On that front, Boeing recently conducted a flight experiment to test the use of airborne radars to work with the unmanned aerial system (UAS) onboard an unmanned aircraft. The flight experiment was conducted at the headquarters of Aurora Flight Systems, a subsidiary of Boeing located in Manassas, Va. The airborne radar was added to an Inexa Access Ground Detect and Avoid System from Insitu (, a Boeing subsidiary. The radar helps create a common operating view for UAS operators to visualize local air traffic and keep an unmanned aircraft clear of nearby aircraft.

An autonomous and optionally piloted Aurora Centaur was equipped with a small radar system, serving as a UAS surrogate and providing similar functionality to Insitu’s ScanEagle3 aircraft system. To create real-world operating conditions, a second Aurora Centaur aircraft and a Cessna 172 aircraft were used as “intruder” vehicles within the same airspace. During the experiments, the other aircraft were flown on collision-type flight profiles to evaluate the response of the radar-equipped Aurora Centaur as well as record the data for analysis. Data from global positioning systems (GPS) onboard all three aircraft provided precise location information during the experiments.

“Boeing’s airspace access solution is already used around the world,” said Jim Bray, project manager. “This flight experiment adds a small airborne radar to improve the comprehensive safety case we can offer our customers.” Fortem Technologies developed the radar technology. Boeing has invested in Fortem, which is developing radar systems for both manned and unmanned aircraft.

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