Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are poised to transform modern life. However, there remain barriers to increased adoption. Current autonomous systems have poor perception of the environment. At the same time, detecting and avoiding non-cooperative aircraft in all weather is a key requirement for operation in the National Airspace (NAS). To bridge this gap, KMB Telematics Inc. is proposing the development of a low size, weight, power, and cost (SWAP-C) imaging radar for UAS sense-and-avoid applications. This sensor is based on 18 months of IRAD conducted by KMB Telematics to develop imaging radar for the automotive market. Automotive radar has seen a flurry of innovation in recent years, resulting in inexpensive, high-resolution sensors. This proposed Phase I effort will focus on the technical objectives needed to show the feasibility of adapting these technologies for UAS sense-and-avoid. By meeting these objectives, this radar will be suitable for use on small commercial package delivery UAS for which there is currently no available sense-and-avoid sensor. The proposed radar will be smaller, lighter, and more inexpensive than currently available technologies. The radar will consume less power and will be designed for redundancy and fault tolerance. The goal is for the radar developed under this SBIR to (1) accelerate the Integrated Aviation Systems Program’s ongoing effort to expand NAS access to broader classes of UAS, and (2) allow commercial package delivery UAS operators to receive FAA waivers for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations. Phase I will result in simulation, analysis, and feasibility determination needed to show that the imaging radar approach is capable of being used on lightweight, power constrained UAS platforms. Phase I will also result in a design that is ready to be prototyped in Phase II.
This sensor would allow IASP to use smaller, cheaper UAS to perform research like the development of sense and avoid algorithms, sensor fusion, pattern recognition, and decision-making algorithms. The sensor could be used in a ground-based configuration to assist AOSP’s research related to UAS path planning, ATC, and non-cooperative surveillance. In space, this radar could be used as an Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) sensor for terrain mapping, for spacecraft docking, and for On Orbit-Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (OSAM).
This sensor would enable commercial package delivery UAS operators to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). This is a large, growing market. Another potential market is counter-UAS around critical infrastructure, selling to DHS, DoD, and and commercial integrators. Also interesting is commercial spaceflight, in precision applications like asteroid mining and landing reusable launch vehicles.