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sUAS Detect-and-Avoid Tech On The Way

Detect-and-avoid technology for small unmanned aircraft systems is advancing quickly. Here are two examples.
By Luke Geiver | October 15, 2015

Detect-and-avoid technology for small unmanned aircraft systems is advancing quickly. Check out the story this week on a Utah-based entity that is taking its radar know-how to sUAVs. The company hopes to have a detect-and-avoid system available for sUAVs available in 2016 after testing commences before the end of the year. The system relies on longer wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum to create black and white images which are then used for detect and avoid purposes. As opposed to a photo or video camera that captures optical imagery only when the lighting conditions allow the shorter wavelengths to penetrate through the spectrum and to the lenses, the synthetic aperture radar approach can still work in low-light, fog, rain or zero visibility situations because the system relies on longer wavelengths in a different portion of the spectrum.

To meet the need of operators trying to provide in-air position to other aircrafts, there are new breakthroughs coming in the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast realm. We know, we’ve held the new incredibly small ADS-B systems in our hands. Earlier this year at a UAS event, a tech developer from the East Coast explained his work on a mini-ADS-B chip that is light enough and strong enough for small UAVs. The technology is roughly the size of a quarter and will be coming out next year.

We’ll have a story on the technology, including how and why it was developed. At the show, we talked with some major UAS manufacturers that had also had the chance to hold the chip (which has been proven) and they told us it was a big story. A handful of other smaller UAV service firms and consultants also made the comments that they were interested in purchasing the mini-ADS-B on the spot.

As we touched on last week, technology can drive this industry further than regulations can alone. Regulations are needed, and thankfully, whether the industry needs it or not, new tech is coming all the time. During a UAS symposium at a business school yesterday, I heard a very poignant statement that helps to reiterate this idea

To paraphrase, the UAS business owner told a roomful of aspiring UAS enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, “Never underestimate how slow government can be,” followed up with the comment, “never underestimate how fast technology in the UAS sector evolves.”