Innovative software developed at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center is laying the foundation for a collision avoidance system that would automatically take control of an aircraft that is in danger of crashing into the ground and fly it, and the people inside, to safety. Dryden has been working with the U.S. Air Force for more than 25 years to develop automatic collision avoidance technologies (ACAT) for fighter aircraft that would reduce the risk of ground collisions, the leading cause of fatalities in both military and general aviation. The result of the collaboration is a lifesaving aircraft technology that will incorporate onboard digital terrain-mapping data with algorithms that predict impending ground collisions.
The payoff from implementing the system (currently being integrated for testing into Air Force F-16 and F-22 aircraft) will be billions of dollars and hundreds of lives and aircraft. The technology relies on sensors to detect a collision threat, algorithms to determine the potential and imminence of a collision, and an autopilot to avoid the potential collision. The system is designed to take over when a pilot is disoriented or unable to control the aircraft.
A modular system architecture will enable this next-generation system to operate with minimal modifications on a variety of aircrafts, including military jets, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and general aviation aircrafts. The technology has the potential to be applied beyond aviation and could be adapted for use in any vehicle that has to avoid a collision threat, including aerospace satellites, automobiles, scientific research vehicles, and marine charting systems.
Although the integrated collision avoidance system is still in development, the terrain-mapping algorithms are currently available for licensing. The algorithms are designed to be easily integrated into an aircraft’s existing onboard computing environment or into a smart phone application.
Contact us to learn more about Dryden’s collision avoidance technologies.Innovative Partnerships Office