The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in partnership with Northrop Grumman and Aviation Communication & Surveillance Systems (ACSS), has successfully flight-tested a sense-and-avoid avionics solution for unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Led by US-based aerospace and defence company Northrop Grumman, the flight tests were conducted at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, US.

The FAA traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) Programme Office is developing the latest airborne collision avoidance system (ACAS) to replace the old traffic alert and collision avoidance warning system.

The new ACAS solution will help support the objectives of the next-generation air transportation system programme (NextGen).

“The flight tests collected data necessary to validate simulation models and help inform the continued development of ACAS Xu."

All ACAS X variants help detect conflicts with intruder aircraft, issue resolution advisories and coordinate manoeuvers with other collision avoidance systems.

While ACAS Xa and Xo are developed for current TCAS users, the ACAS Xu variant is used by UASs and other vehicles with new surveillance technologies and various performance characteristics.

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ACSS UAS programme manager Greg Boerwinkle said: “The flight tests collected data necessary to validate simulation models and help inform the continued development of ACAS Xu.

“This is a critical capability to advance the economic viability and safety aspects of large UAS operations. The capabilities under development for large UASs to detect and avoid collisions will be substantially better than the ability of a pilot to see with the human eye and avoid collisions.”

The ACAS Xu software has been delivered to ACSS by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), who also supported the flight tests with overall system expertise.

ACSS was responsible for integrating and testing the ACAS Xu software, in addition to providing the hardware to host ACAS Xu leveraging its commercial T³CAS product, which includes TCAS, transponder and Terrain Awareness Warning System (TAWS) functions.