Home Bots & Business American Robotics and Scientific Applications & Research Associates (SARA) partner in developing fully-autonomous drones

American Robotics and Scientific Applications & Research Associates (SARA) partner in developing fully-autonomous drones

by Pieter Werner

American Robotics, developer of an FAA-approved fully-automated drone system, and Scientific Applications & Research Associates (SARA), announced a partnership to unlock the $100 billion commercial drone market by advancing Beyond-Visual-Line-Of-Sight (BVLOS) operations in the National Airspace System (NAS).

American Robotics’ Scout System uses SARA’s Terrestrial Acoustic Sensor Array (TASA), an acoustics-based aircraft detection technology, to effectively identify other aircraft and maintain a safe distance from them while in flight. This sensor technology combined with advanced safety features of American Robotics’ Scout System enables a Detect and Avoid (DAA) capability that is fundamental to meet and exceed the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) expectations for safe drone flight in the National Airspace System (NAS) with no visual observers on the ground.

Unattended operations

This partnership and American Robotics’ recent FAA approvals for BVLOS flight represents an inflection point in the commercial drone industry, as well as the FAA’s broader acceptance and understanding of autonomous drone technology. Advanced and proven DAA technology is a critical enabling factor for unattended operations and widespread drone adoption in commercial markets. This technology must be viewed from a systems perspective, encompassing a sensor’s ability to detect other aircraft, the drone’s ability to maneuver around the detected aircraft, and safely keep their distance in real-world environments.

The integration of SARA’s TASA into American Robotics’ Scout System enables maneuverability and system performance that exceeds the guidelines set by industry standards and was a key factor in proving to regulators that American Robotics’ drone-based aerial intelligence platform would operate safely in the NAS without visual observers on the ground.

Operate safely

“The FAA has rigorous requirements for drone companies to prove they can operate safely in the NAS without visual observers or pilots on the ground, and with other manned aircraft. For the drone industry to reach its multi-billion dollar potential and meet the safety regulations set by the FAA, there must be an ecosystem of competent and capable technology partners who work together to make automated commercial drones a reality,” said Vijay Somandepalli, CTO and co-founder of American Robotics. “The American Robotics and SARA partnership exemplifies the importance of working together to continue to propel the commercial drone industry forward.”

SARA’s TASA works by detecting aircraft even when line-of-sight is obscured by trees, buildings, darkness, fog, and terrain features. Combining patented microphone technology and advanced signal processing algorithms, a single TASA unit detects aircraft bearing, approximates range, and determines aircraft threat status over a full 360 degree field-of-regard. TASA is tightly integrated with the American Robotics Scout System to ensure information transfer between TASA and Scout occurs reliably and with very low latencies. Once a manned aircraft is determined to be a threat by TASA and that information is passed to Scout, the Scout drone then executes a proprietary avoidance maneuver to steer clear of the threat aircraft. This ensures that both aircraft remain separated in space to assure the safety of both aircraft.

Valuable data

Jay Cleckler, Chief Technologist at SARA, said: “For drones to successfully collect valuable data, they must be able to function autonomously and operate in a safe and harmonious manner with other manned aviation that operate at low altitudes where drones typically fly. TASA has been proven capable of reliably detecting manned aircraft that are miles away in various demonstration tests with the FAA, and requires little infrastructure or power to operate. American Robotics is a great partner and their dedication to developing safe and reliable drone technology will truly help to advance the industry and commercial drone applications.”

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