Sagetech has released the following article that lays out avionics design considerations for UAS (unmanned aerial systems) that may have to perform both military and civilian missions. The specialist developer of UAS avionics recommends the use of plug and play components so that switching missions does not require significant redesign.
With the integration of UAS in the NAS (National Airspace System) inching ever closer with new standards and regulations, UAV manufacturers are looking to capitalize on the coming wave of potential civil uses for drones and air mobility vehicles. Just look at companies like Airbus, where their VSR700 tactical unmanned system is marketed for a variety of missions including military ISR as well as civil search and rescue. Or check out Martin UAV’s V-BAT, marketed for an even wider variety of missions from firefighting to inspection to military combat operations.
Adding peripherals like cameras or weapons to configure a vehicle for a civil or military mission is complicated enough, and at Sagetech, we believe that your UAS avionics suite is one place where manufacturers can save some design time and complexity. We propose a simple strategy: Design your UAS avionics suite once with plug and play components so that switching missions doesn’t require significant avionics redesign.
For UAVs intended to fly 400 AGL or higher, swappable civil and military transponders offer several advantages for designers of military and civil UAVs:
Integrate once, fly any mission. By selecting a military and civil transponder set, such as the MX Series offered by Sagetech, designers can save time and cost by performing the hardware and software integration into their UAS avionics suite just once. Transponders that share a technology platform, a hardware footprint, plus a hardware and software interface make it easy to toggle for different mission aircraft. For example, military use drones will want to use Sagetech’s MX12B micro IFF Mode 5 transponder. To use that same vehicle in a civil application, engineers can simply plug in the MXS Mode S transponder, which does not include the encryption functionality, yet leverages the same interface protocol to virtually eliminate additional engineering on both the software and hardware side.
One solution across fleets of aircraft. Many UAS manufacturers offer several models of aircraft for different uses. By preserving the avionics design with swappable micro transponders, small enough for Group 1 or 2, it is now possible to create a low SWaP common avionics package to serve across all models of an OEM’s various unmanned vehicles. Micro transponders, especially those outfitted with both dual and single antenna options as well as ADS-B In, are uniquely suited to serve in aircraft from Group 1 up through Group 5 and even into manned aircraft, which simplifies avionics design, reduces SWaP, and cuts cost both in design and production.
One proven vendor, multiple solutions. Selecting a single vendor for swappable military and civil transponders eases the procurement burden. This strategy reduces the paperwork overhead of vetting additional manufacturers, reduces the research time to determine functional replacements, offers a coordinated spares and obsolescence strategy, and can reduce the total cost of ownership significantly.
A future upgrade path for detect and avoid systems. As more UAS integrate into the NAS, incorporating certifiable detect and avoid (DAA) systems will be a necessity. The official FAA standards are still emerging, but in all cases of NAS integration an ADS-B transponder will be required along with an ACAS-based DAA solution. OEMs can future-proof their aircraft with swappable transponder solutions so that whether the aircraft needs a mil-certified DAA solution or a DAA for civil mission aircraft, the transponder (either version) can serve as the RF front end. Civil and military certified transponders can be easily integrated with an interrogator (see Sagetech’s MXR), an ACAS Xu or Xr computer (see our solution with Hover aero), and a non-cooperative sensing device such as a radar or visual camera system for a complete, certifiable ACAS-based DAA solution.
In summary, design once, deploy everywhere. With a transponder plug-and-play strategy, OEMs will future-proof their UAS avionics for both military and civil duty while reducing time, cost, and procurement hassle.