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Northrop Grumman Helps USAF Develop Collision-Avoidance System For UAV's

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El Segundo CA (SPX) Jul 29, 2004
Northrop Grumman is helping the U.S. Air Force develop collision-avoidance technology that will make it safer for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to share airspace with piloted air vehicles.

Under a new Sensing for UAV Awareness contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector will verify the attributes of a "see-and-avoid" sensing architecture it designed under a previous contract.

The architecture defines the way that data is collected from different kinds of UAV sensors (such as electro-optical, infrared and radar) and then "fused" to create an integrated view of the airborne environment.

The UAV's autonomous flight-control system uses this data to make appropriate adjustments in the air vehicle's speed, altitude etc., to avoid a mid-air collision.

Northrop Grumman will validate the performance of the architecture using a simulation that includes actual sensors and a current traffic collision-avoidance system. The company expects to complete work on the contract, valued at $1.9 million, in 2007.

"Our work on this technology reinforces Northrop Grumman's position as a national leader in unmanned systems," said David Werkheiser, director of engineering, logistics and technology at Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems facility in El Segundo. "It draws on our expertise in vehicle management systems, flight controls, and sensor and software integration."

The collision-avoidance technology will benefit UAVs such as Northrop Grumman's RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance system produced for the Air Force. Global Hawk is currently the only UAV system permitted to fly routinely in national airspace.

That permission was obtained by the Air Force in 2003 through a national certificate of authorization granted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Other Northrop Grumman unmanned systems that would benefit from the collision-avoidance technology include:

+ The U.S. Navy's RQ-8 Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing UAV
+ The Class IV unmanned air system for the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems
+ Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (JUCAS), which are being developed by the DARPA, the Air Force and the Navy
+ The Unmanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft (UCAR), which is jointly sponsored by DARPA and the Army
+ The Hunter UAV for the Army; and
+ The Extended Range Multi-Purpose UAV for the Army

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