Testing shows drones can use autonomous technology to dodge other air traffic

In the drone industry, it’s called “the detect and avoid problem.” Enabling drones to sense nearby aircraft and move out of their way has long been one of the most formidable barriers between a technology narrowly confined to specialized applications and one reaching its potential. 

“There are countless beneficial applications for drones,” said Mark Blanks, the director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP). “But in order for them to be practical and scalable, the industry needs technology that’s proven it can enable much greater autonomy, especially in detect and avoid.” 

MAAP is one of seven test sites designated by the FAA to lead the research supporting the integration of drones into the national airspace. Now they’ve moved the industry closer to a solution for one of its key challenges with a real-world evaluation of an “end-to-end” detect and avoid system: A set of components that allows a drone not only to detect intruders, but to maneuver autonomously out of the way.

The tests were the culmination of a year-long project called RAAVIN, the latest installment in a long-running collaboration between MAAP and NASA investigating potential solutions to detect and avoid.  

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