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NASA Algorithms Keep Unmanned Aircraft Away From Commercial Aviation

By Network World

July 17, 2015

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New algorithms developed at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Langley Research Center could enable large unmanned aircraft to remain "well clear" of commercial airliners in flight and prevent a disaster.

Unmanned systems lack the onboard technology, as well as air traffic controllers and live pilots, of commercial airliners and many larger private planes. NASA has developed detect-and-avoid algorithms and is testing the technology in multiple research experiments.

One system, known as Detect and Avoid Alerting for Unmanned Systems (DAIDALUS), uses algorithms to process incoming traffic surveillance sensor data that some larger unmanned aircraft have onboard. DAIDALUS provides alerts and even maneuver guidance for the unmanned system pilot on the ground. The system uses algorithms to compute the time interval of well-clear violation, ranges of speed maneuvers, as well as ranges of horizontal and vertical maneuvers to assist pilots.

DAIDALUS is essentially designed to "see" safe paths out of potentially dangerous situations, according to NASA. "In the case of a predicted well-clear violation, DAIDALUS also provides an algorithm that computes the time interval of well-clear violation," note NASA researchers. "Furthermore, DAIDALUS implements algorithms for computing prevention bands, assuming a simple kinematic trajectory model."

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