3D Robotics


(representative DIY version shown, not Google's)

"Google’s quest to introduce small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into low altitude airspace within a “few years” has driven the company to launch an unexpected foray into the avionics market, says Dave Vos, head of the Internet company’s Project Wing.
Two companies – L-3 Aviation Products and FreeFlight – have recently unveiled automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) transceivers for general aviation priced under $2,000, hoping to entice aircraft owners to install the mandated precision-locating equipment.

Google’s unmanned aviation venture now plans to beat that price and produce thousands of ultra-low-cost ADS-B Out transceivers for the manned and unmanned aviation market, Vos said 23 March at the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Summit hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

“We think that – and we are going to do this – we will head-down the trajectory of putting into the marketplace really, really low-cost ADS-B solutions,” Vos told the ICAO audience.

Asked in an interview later if that meant beating the $2,000 threshold, Vos indicated that was possible.

“We have to answer the question: What does the market find palatable in order to really transform? And that’s where we’re going,” Vos says. “Think about it: Would you spend $2,000? We have to make it happen.”

Driving Google’s strategy is a fundamental obstacle to its plan of launching a UAS-based drone delivery service in a few years. Google’s unmanned vehicles need to operate in airspace below 500ft that is currently used by tens of thousands of general aviation aircraft. Some of those aircraft owners have been reluctant to spend money to equip their aircraft with an ADS-B Out system.

Google is also looking deeper at software algorithms for traffic collision avoidance systems, says Vos, a former executive at Rockwell Collins. If Google’s vision is realised, the skies above urban centers could be filled without thousands of ADS-B-equipped UAVs. That could overwhelm current pilot displays showing potential collision threats.

“We think there are some good solutions to make it not so cumbersome,” Vos says.

Those efforts are part of Google’s effort to be “respectful” to manned aircraft using the airspace today, he says. As an internet company, Google is used to fixing software bugs after rolling out new products for customers. That culture had to be changed after Vos arrived at Project Wing, he says.

“Really bad things happen if there is a bug and we didn’t figure it out,” Vos says. “We don’t just get to stop and check under the hood when we’re flying things. I’m super, super-excited to say the team at Project Wing has pretty much done a 180 in only about 3-4 months and really has embraced the [aviation] culture.”

From Flight Global:http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/google-targets-low-cost-ads-b-out-avionics-market-410473/

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  • Hi all
    Interesting reading, i am wondering if a modified version of my project PilotAware would help in this area. It would be low cost, low power and lightweight.


    Thx lee
  • Hey James

    You make some good points, all of which I agree with completely. I don't think it's wise, or even at all necessary to have "drone deliveries". I'm still trying to figure out exactly what requires immediate drone delivery by air, that can't be done more efficiently and safer on the ground, without cluttering our skies with a our materialistic urges.

    The only way I can see "drone deliveries taking off" is if they are multitasked to provide real time services at the same time. This includes the ability for them to self regulate and increase the safety of other airspace users. All this can be done with the next generation (or this?) of SDR radios. Things like mesh networks with passive radar capabilities are already in existence, just not readily deployed on drone platforms yet. Not only will it give individual drones sense and avoid capabilities, even of ground terrain and structures, it will do so without adding signals to the RF space. Even if it is only for larger manned airframes and structures at first, which for person safety would avoid the most expedient risk.

    Further to this it could also provide better control and navigation accuracy even on loss of GPS or conventional comms etc. ADS-B is fairly straight forward in comparison with only limited benefits for BLOS ops IMHO as the system needs to be adopted by all airspace users. BLOS is just to "risky" without an operator in the loop, which is contrary to what automated BLOS operations is about.

    Security is of a concern as well, but making a IP based SDR means that conventional, already in use on the internet security measures could be utilized with out much modification. I think with SDR it should be possible to integrate all of this within the next 5 years or so, provided there is a open source community that promotes it, rather than it being monopolized by copyright though a global conglomerate with military backing.

    Fact is that with the wrong intentions any person will find away to overcome the security of a given system and will be able to cause damage to people and property. That's where we need to implement guidance, targeted monitoring and extensive training so we act and behave responsibly with our tools (or toys!). Our intentions should always be focused on improving the well being of others as well as ourselves, and not just mandated by the blind consumption of what we personally want. The recent Germanwings disaster being a case in point, that ultimately humans, not machines, steer us towards our destiny. 



  • What the regulators have to look at is the potential risk of agreeing BLOS operations. Probability x Severity is the key, and probability comprises of the potential number of UAV's being introduced into civil airspace and their possible failure modes. If they give beyond line of sight (BLOS) the go-ahead today, in 5 years the sky will be crammed with UAVs for mail delivery, surveillance and all sorts of other uses. Remember current levels of UAVs operating in civil airspace is tiny in comparison with the numbers that would exist in a world where BLOS operations were standard. The skies would look very different (imagine star wars and you are getting close!).

    If UAVs operating beyond line of sight were restricted to 400 ft then i guess the risk would be reduced. However there is a definate risk associated with this, for instance PPL pilots have to practice forced landings and military fighter aircraft practicing low level flying. Currently large bird strikes are a serious problem for pilots, so i'm not sure that increasing the amount of "large birds aka UAVs" in the air would be acceptable for the pilot community without the UAV having certified collision avoidance systems. I could be wrong

    A few other issues i see with beyond line of sight...

    1) Flight control failure

    2) Engine failure & forced landing

    3) 3rd party hacking of flight control

    4) Reliable communications

    5) Airframe/ control failure (brings in requirement for health monitoring)

    6) Temporary structures (ie cranes)

    7) Permanent structures (better up to date models of tall buildings would be required)

    8) GPS network failure (result = all UAVs come crashing down!)

    Agreed, some of these are issues exist for current operations within 500m of the pilot, however the potential numbers of UAVs that would be operating if they opened up BLOS operations is a major consideration for the regulators when assessing the risks imposed on other airspace users. The amazon drone delivery service being an obvious example of this increase in numbers of UAVs.

    All these issues i have mentioned above would all need serious development before i can see unrestricted BLOS operations.

    But on a positive note, cheap, lightweight ADSB is certainly a step in the right direction. Just i'm not sure how useful this is at the present moment without serious development in other areas. ADBS would be most useful when operating UAVs in areas where there are other mitigating factors which would drastically reduce the risk. For instance when operating along power lines, there would be very small risks imposed on other airspace users. This might be the kind of place where ADSB has some potential in the current UAV climate, however the other points i raised would also need to be addressed in some shape or form

    Interesting topic though :)


  • Receivers are already cheap ~100$ on eBay. And if you use GCS like UgCS www.ugcs.com which supports ADS-B operator gets warnings on approaching aircraft. I agree that Ads-B should not be treated as means to implement automatic sense and avoid. As one more layer of safety, warning it works great. With sub 2k ADS-B out it will not be an issue anymore to require it mandatory also from holiday Cesna flyers. Or they will have option to have receiver only, but then they will have to get out of way of UAV as UAV has no means to see them.
  • If an ADS-B receiver is relatively cheaply available even to the hobbyist flyer, as you describe them, then this at least will alert them to traffic that they wouldn't have probably seen anyway, as well as UAS in the vicinity.  No UAS integration will offer perfect traffic avoidance, but a combination of technologies could push the risk to less than that accepted now with birdstrike etc.

    Another useful tool would be a "universal" CTAF for UAS that would allow the ground station to be contacted by the manned aircraft for coordinating avoidance maneuvers once detected via ADS-B.

    That's not to say sense-and-avoid wouldn't be a useful technology too.  It's the layering of these technologies that will reduce the risk to acceptable levels.

  • I conducted my PhD looking at the verification and validation of collision avoidance systems for UAVs. Although ADSB is a good step forward, it is only a small part of the problem.

    The major hurdle with integrating UAVs into civil airspace is air traffic which is not equipped with ADSB. Some examples are the hobbyist flyer who likes to take his Cessna 152 up on a weekend for pleasure flying, or the thousands of glider pilots who are dotted over the country. Unless you can convince these airspace users to put ADSB on their aircraft, and the regulators make it mandatory, then a passive system will be required using cameras, lasers acoustics to detect aircraft incursions etc.

    There has been a lot of research into this area, and there is still a lot more to do, so i don't see a passive system being on the market for at least 10 years. Not to spoil anyone's party, but beyond line of sight operations is a long way away!

    I would be very interested if anyone has any ideas on how to get around this problem. Forcing airspace uses to carry ADSB has already been looked at and the pilot community made a lot of fuss. Is the industry any closer to persuading them?!

  • A generic ADS-B number for sub-2kg (or whatever) UAV's would be enough of an incentive to use one.  At least it'd make the manned pilot population more comfortable with having them share "their" airspace...

  • Main issue is ICAO registration. They can issue ADS-B number only to particular airframe. And airframe in their understanding is airframe like with big aircraft, with all specs, maintenance and flight logs according ICAO standards. Never the less we managed to get ICAO number for 3D Robotics Quad :)

    Another issue not supported by current legislation is ADS-B number and therefore transponder portability between vehicles. If there will not be really sub 300$ ADS-B OUT transponders, this would be really necessary feature, to rent out ADS-B transmitter for beyond line of sight operations.

  • google beat $2000 level  rofl

    Dynon Avionics SV-XPNDR-262 Mode S Transponder, Class 2


  • hmmm....


    GTX 330 (black) System with installation kit and pilot’s guide  $2,989.00
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