NASA Dryden's remotely operated "DROID-1" small UAV, one of three such model aircraft flown for aeronautical experiments, pilot proficiency and educational purposes at NASA Dryden, takes to the air. (NASA / Tom Tschida) › View Larger Image
Dryden Validates Auto-GCAS Smartphone Software
The project team that is developing Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System software technology at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center has accomplished most of the project's objectives, following a recent series of demonstration flights on one of the Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone (DROID) small unmanned research aircraft.
During the flight series that wrapped up in late March at a remote location northeast of Edwards Air Force Base, the project team tested the automatic ground collision avoidance algorithm in a variety of terrain conditions. Its ability to prevent ground impact has been out-performing engineering expectations, according to project manager Mark Skoog.
The team is currently evaluating whether to complete one final software modification to improve the system’s fault tolerance and conduct one final flight series to evaluate that fix.
The software has been adapted by the project team into an application for the Android smartphone linked to a small Piccolo autopilot. Although the smartphone remained on the ground but in the operational loop during most of the 19 flights flown during the flight validation phase to date, three of which have had the smartphone with the Auto-GCAS application actually functioning aboard the DROID aircraft. The project team next plans to analyze data from the flights and report on the final results.
During the most recent collision-avoidance flight tests on March 29, Aviation Week & Space Technology writer Guy Norris took the controls of the DROID aircraft, completing three successful runs in which the software commanded the aircraft to automatically pull up or turn to avoid impacting steeply rising terrain ahead of its initial flight path.
When fully developed and matured, the miniaturized Auto-GCAS technology could have wide applications for use in general aviation aircraft, including both manned and remotely operated unmanned aircraft systems.
about Auto-GCAS flight tests on Dryden's DROID.
Gray Creech, Public Affairs
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center