Sagetech was on board a recent simulated BVLOS aerial inspection of gas and petroleum pipelines during a NASA Systems Integration and Operationalization (SIO) demonstration flight with partner American Aerospace Technologies Inc. (AATI) Feb. 25, 2021. Sagetech was in great company – this demonstration brought together many of the leaders of the UAS technology ecosystem with technologies including radar, a detect and avoid system (Sagetech), a camera system, a C2 radio, and an air traffic management system.
AATI flew its 220 lb. AiRanger UAS for approximately one hour and 57 minutes from the Elk Hills-Buttonwillow Airport in Kern County, California, west of Bakersfield ranging out 14.5 miles and returning. The AiRanger flew at more than 500 feet altitude over rural, sparsely populated areas, and was operated by a remote pilot based at a ground control station.
This flight demonstration included two technologies that were integrated into the aircraft which are necessary to fly safely in the national airspace. A multi-sensor Detect and Avoid (DAA) system was provided by AATI’s partnerships with Echodyne and Sagetech Avionics to allow the pilot on the ground to “see and avoid” other air traffic. The DAA system consists of a dual airborne radar, ADS-B, and tail and wing cameras mounted on the UAS. The system’s collision-avoidance radar provides an essential safety feature for integrating unmanned aircraft into civil airspace. The Detect and Avoid system included an integrated Sagetech MXS ADS-B In/Out Transponder and ACAS-based DAA components.
“This commercial UAS demonstration offers a glimpse of the future as UAS like the AiRanger routinely and cost-effectively perform pipeline patrol missions, which is vital to keeping our environment safe,” said John Del Frate, NASA SIO senior project engineer. “With pipeline patrol typically occurring in remote locations, it’s a perfect starting point for UAS to gain the data and experience necessary for flight in more complex airspace.”
OneSky Systems provided real-time UAS traffic management, integration of the vehicle telemetry, radar tracks, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, and weather data for situational awareness. This was in addition to AATI’s Command and Control (C2) radio used to communicate with the aircraft, provided by Collins. The C2 radio, as well as the payload radio from Cubic, communicated through a Troll MT-300 high-gain tracking antenna. AATI is also engaged in a long-term activity with End State Solutions to obtain an FAA type certification of this aircraft.
The goal of the SIO program is to work with industry to help incentivize the creation of C2 and DAA systems based on standards informed by years of NASA research under the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration in the National Airspace System (NAS) project. DAA and C2 are key systems needed to enable the safe integration of UAS into the NAS. The conclusion of the SIO project is being carried out under the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) project.