Vigilant Aerospace Detect and Avoid Drone Safety System Wins NASA’s Commercial Invention of the Year Award
by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby
This week, NASA announced that the technology licensed to Vigilant Aerospace and leveraged in its FlightHorizon detect-and-avoid and airspace management product has been recognized with NASA’s Commercial Invention of the Year 2021 award.
The winning technology, invented by NASA Senior Research Engineer Ricardo Arteaga alongside a team at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, provides uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) with a means to automatically detect and avoid other air traffic. Detect-and-avoid capability is crucial for the growth of the UAS industry and the advancement of autonomous aviation. The patents following the technology’s invention were licensed to Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc. of Oklahoma City and Fargo, ND and serve as the basis for its proprietary FlightHorizon product line.
“We are deeply grateful for the recognition from NASA provided by this national award,” said Vigilant Aerospace CEO Kraettli L. Epperson. “Ricardo and his team at NASA Armstrong were visionary in their foresight about the technology that the aviation industry would need to maintain safety in an increasingly autonomous world. They worked hard to develop the industry’s leading technology for automatic collision avoidance on UAS. We believe that this invention fills a critical technology gap and will help lead the U.S. into a new era of safe autonomous aircraft flight.”
FlightHorizon is a detect-and-avoid and airspace management software solution, bringing together a range of data from aircraft transponders, radar, drone autopilots and live FAA data to form a singular image of the airspace surrounding a drone. Able to display air traffic, predict trajectories and provide avoidance maneuvers to the UAS pilot or autopilot, and configurable to any size of aircraft, the system can be utilized on the ground or onboard the UAS to help operators fly beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) under waivers or new FAA BVLOS rules.
“Uncrewed, remotely piloted aircraft – called unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS – have their own set of challenges to overcome when designing a safe flight path… NASA collision-avoidance technology combines algorithms, sensors, and software integrated on UAS,” the NASA announcement described the technology. “It offers improved traffic situational awareness, real-time weather monitoring, and navigation – all designed for the short-range trajectories most often used by UAS. The algorithm can automatically avoid collisions and route the aircraft back on its previous course once the potential collision is well clear… The technology has been licensed by a private company, Vigilant Aerospace Systems, which has used it to provide detect-and-avoid and airspace management solutions to two [FAA] Unmanned Aircraft Integration Pilot Programs.”
“For Vigilant Aerospace, this award culminates an outstanding 12-month period of rapid technical and industry development,” said Epperson. “We recently finished serving on the FAA’s beyond visual line-of-sight rulemaking committee working on new rules for drone flight in the U.S., participated in Virginia Tech’s national detect-and-avoid trials, deployed our software to the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota and completed groundbreaking beyond visual line-of-sight flights with the Alaska UAS Test Site under an FAA contract.”
Read more about Vigilant Aerospace:
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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