SITIS Archives - Topic Details
Program:  SBIR
Topic Num:  AF071-063 (AirForce)
Title:  ATC Position Reports for Unmanned Aircraft (UA)
Research & Technical Areas:  Ground/Sea Vehicles, Sensors, Electronics

  STATEMENT OF INTENT: The purpose of this project is to devise and later implement schema for converting position reports for all Unmanned Aircraft (UA) used in theatre into a standard format and to forward this information to air traffic control and battle management facilities. If successful, this project will improve the situational awareness of air traffic and battle field controllers and other airspace users, increase airspace utilization and improve safety of flight for both manned and unmanned aircraft.
  Objective:  Deliver Unmanned Aircraft (UA) Position Reports to Air Traffic Control (ATC) Displays by Altitude and Latitude/Longitude of the aircraft.
  Description:  The recent addition of UA into theatre operations has provided time critical information to the war fighter on the ground and to other aircraft in theatre. These UA come in all different sizes and capabilities. The Air Traffic and Battle Manager Controller’s ability to prevent the UA’s collision with conventional aircraft is significantly enhanced by the ability to see all airborne assets on the same display. While some UA are large enough to be detected by conventional air surveillance systems, many UA are small enough to be virtually invisible but large enough to be aeronautical hazards. Both the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the Battlefield Manager currently take the same approach to keeping manned and unmanned aircraft apart. There is easy access to airspace below 1000 feet, but access to higher altitudes requires long lead times because they “sterilizes” the airspace before allowing UA to fly into these altitudes by clearing all other aircraft out of the area around its projected path Although efforts to allow greater access to the National Airspace System (NAS) by UA are being pursued, these will not be implemented for some time. Meanwhile, DoD controllers, both in and out of theatre, must work around the presence of UA with little support from the Command and Control system because of the lack of position reports. The most serious problem is from the plethora of small UA, many of which can operate at the higher altitudes used by manned aircraft. Every UA must report their location to the ground control system (GCS) if the data they are delivering is to have maximum value. These reports can be shared with the Air Traffic and Battlefield Managers, but it requires collection of all that data in an appropriate format and frequency. One approach being considered for the larger DoD UA has been "Cursor on Target," but has yet to be demonstrated on the very small UA with limited and sometime intermittent bandwidth. The data from individual UA may take different forms, with some sending latitude, longitude and altitude data to the GCS, but others may only send altitude, distance and bearing relative to the location of the GCS. The data needed includes the technical characteristics of the communications from the UA, the flight characteristics (e.g. airspeed) of the UA and its ground station and how the UA might behave upon loss of its control link (autonomous operations). Collecting this data, putting it all in a form that the airspace managers within theatre and the NAS can interpret and transmitting it to those displays would improve the safety of all air operations. With a combined display of manned and unmanned aircraft and voice communications with ground based UA pilots, controllers can de-conflict manned and unmanned aircraft using traditional techniques. At present, these smaller UA may deliver data only to the GCS for immediate use by the local troops. The purpose of this project is to devise and later implement schema for converting position reports for the very small UAs, into a standard format and to forward this information to an air traffic control facility for processing by the automation system.

  PHASE I: Collect information on position reporting systems used by UAs in theatre and for training within the NAS and demonstrate the feasibility of delivering reports to a civil or military control system. Report should include characteristics of the communications from the UA and its ground station.
  PHASE II: Prototypes of promising collection schemas will be developed, demonstrated and evaluated. Highest priority should be given to the small UA currently operating in theatre. The results will be in format for surveillance data suitable for use in an ATC system and on a Battle Management System. Interface control documents for the DoD ATC automation system currently being deployed will be provided.

  DUAL USE COMMERCIALIZATION: Military application: A method providing position information to battlefield managers will increase situational awareness and help reduce the risk to safety, which is commonly compromised due to operational necessity. Commercial application: Providing position information to ATC facilities will expedite integration of small UAs into the NAS, enabling a more robust UAS market (for traffic reporting, weather, communication relay)

  References:  1. Degarmo, M., and G. Nelson. “Prospective Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Operations in the Future National Airspace System.” AIAA-2004-6243. AIAA 4th Aviation Technology, Integration and Operations (ATIO) Forum, Chicago, Illinois. Sep. 20-22, 2004. 2. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap,” Aug. 4, 2005.

Keywords:  UAV, UAS, unmanned air vehicle, unmanned aerial vehicle, unmanned aerial systems.

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