Good overview on sense-and-avoid tech from GCN:
ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) transponders not only broadcast aircraft location in real time, they also deliver information on altitude and velocity. What's more, they can deliver data on other aircraft, weather and terrain to the vehicle that is carrying them. In fact, ADS-B transponders will replace radar as the primary technology for tracking air traffic, and the FAA will require the majority of aircraft operating in U.S. airspace to be equipped with ADS-B by Jan. 1, 2020.
Using ADS-B transponders on many UAVs was infeasible until recently, when Sagetech Corp., an avionics company based in White Salmon, Wash., developed one that weighed only 3.5 ounces.
One of the most ambitious civilian efforts under way to develop an integrated system for UAVs is the Mid-Air Collision Avoidance System (MIDCAS), which is being developed by five European countries — Sweden, Germany, France, Italy and Spain — and 11 industrial partners.
The four-year, $65 million project is expected by 2014 to deliver an automated sense-and-avoid system that will not depend on transponders. While it is being designed to integrate ADS-B, MIDCAS also includes two visible-band electro-optical cameras and one infrared camera for aircraft to use in identifying other aircraft. In addition, the team's developers are designing image-processing algorithms, processing units and integration with on-board avionics.
A key point is in the last paragraph:
"The real challenge is not technological," Glenn said. "The real challenge is regulatory acceptance. I think we're close enough. The key is that we are able to be as good as manned aviation. So the issue is how to get federal aviation authorities around the world to get their minds around it."
According to Glenn, if government regulatory agencies would specify the performance standards UAVs need to meet, he can design appropriate equipment. "You tell me what the requirement is, and I will build it," he said.
Pellebergs agrees. "No one really knows what the requirements are for sense-and-avoid for UASes in civilian airspace, so we need to get a set of standards in place," he said. "I think that's what's holding up a lot of the progress in this area."
Unfortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration declined our requests for comment.