Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) represent the future of modern aviation. Over the past 10 years their use abroad by the military has become commonplace for surveillance and combat. Unfortunately, their use at home has been far more restrictive. Due to safety and regulatory concerns, UAS are prohibited from flying in the National Airspace System without special authorization from the FAA. One main reason for this is the lack of an on-board pilot to "see and avoid" other air traffic and thereby maintain the safety of the skies. Development of a comparable capability, known as "Sense and Avoid" (SAA), has therefore become a major area of focus. This research focuses on the SAA problem as it applies specifically to small UAS. Given the size, weight, and power constraints on these aircraft, current approaches fail to provide a viable option. To aid in the development of a SAA system for small UAS, various simulation and hardware tools are discussed. The modifications to the MAGICC Lab's simulation environment to provide support for multiple agents is outlined. The use of C-MEX s-Functions to improve simulation performance and code portability is also presented. For hardware tests, two RC airframes were constructed and retrofitted with autopilots to allow autonomous flight. The development of a program to interface with the ground control software and run the collision avoidance algorithms is discussed as well. Intruder sensing is accomplished using a low-power, low-resolution radar for detection and an Extended Kalman Filter (EKF) for tracking. The radar provides good measurements for range and closing speed, but bearing measurements are poor due to the low-resolution. A novel method for improving the bearing approximation using the raw radar returns is developed and tested. A four-state EKF used to track the intruder's position and trajectory is derived and used to provide estimates to the collision avoidance planner. Simulation results and results from flight tests using a simulated radar are both presented. To effectively plan collision avoidance paths a tree-branching path planner is developed. Techniques for predicting the intruder position and creating safe, collision-free paths using the estimates provided by the EKF are presented. A method for calculating the cost of flying each path is developed to allow the selection of the best candidate path. As multiple duplicate paths can be created using the branching planner, a strategy to remove these paths and greatly increase computation speed is discussed. Both simulation and hardware results are presented for validation.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





UAS, UAV, sense and avoid, detection, collision avoidance, path planning

2776.avi (43023 kB)
This scenario features an abeam encounter with intruder starting at a range of approximately 1000 meters and a bearing of 40 degrees.

2777.avi (43450 kB)
This scenario features a head-on encounter with intruder starting at a range of approximately 1400 meters and a bearing of –1 degrees.

2778.avi (42982 kB)
This scenario features a slightly abeam encounter with intruder starting at a range of approximately 1200 meters and a bearing of -20 degrees.