Radar Integrated onto Newly FAA-Approved BVLOS Unmanned Aircraft

AATI’s FAA-approved AiRanger has been integrated with Echodyne’s EchoFlight radar, providing detection & tracking ranges to aid avoidance measures, maintaining operational safety By Abi Wylie / 20 May 2024
Radar Integrated onto Newly FAA-Approved BVLOS Unmanned Aircraft
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Echodyne’s EchoFlight radar has been integrated into the American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. (AATI) AiRanger aircraft.

AATI’s AiRanger recently obtained a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for commercial Beyond Visual Line-of-Sight (BVLOS) flight operations. The waiver permits AATI to use the onboard detect-and-avoid (DAA) system for adhering to aircraft right-of-way rules during BVLOS operations.

This reportedly makes the AiRanger the first unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to meet industry consensus standards for the DAA system

This approval marks a major milestone for the unmanned aviation industry as a whole and is the culmination of concerted efforts over many years from a diverse array of technology partners and regulatory bodies to safely bring a next-generation BVLOS aircraft into commercial operation. 

The level of rigor and evaluation for such a feat is not to be understated, as this process required regulatory agencies to review new, emerging technologies that had never come into their assessment purview before. In addition, the complex and cutting-edge aviation navigation technologies underpinning the AiRanger aircraft had not previously been integrated into one, singular system. 

The scale of the achievement is highlighted by how the AiRanger is able to rely on such advanced technologies to assist with remotely piloted concepts of operation (ConOps) across the full spectrum – human on the loop, human in the loop (semi-autonomous), and human out of the loop (fully autonomous).

The FAA approval allows AATI’s AiRanger – a 220-pound aircraft capable of flying for 12 hours and up to 750 miles at altitudes to 12,000’ MSL – to conduct commercial operations at medium altitudes under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) beyond the pilot’s line of sight and without airborne or ground observers. 

The AiRanger’s initial deployment will be for critical infrastructure patrol, threat detection and reporting, focusing on pipeline surveillance. The operation is vital for maintaining pipeline integrity and safety, and ensuring quick response to potential hazards or leaks. 

This achievement underscores the essential role that radar plays in the commercialization of such aircraft operations – providing foundational situational awareness data to search, detect, and track volumes of airspace for both cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft. EchoFlight is integrated into a pod on each wing of the AiRanger aircraft, providing the necessary visibility to meet minimum operational performance standards (MOPS). 

The detection and tracking ranges provided by EchoFlight provide the DAA system with sufficient time and information to take avoidance measures and maintain operational safety. 

“As all stakeholders in the unmanned aviation industry are aware, it takes a village to develop such a complex aviation navigation system that receives regulatory approval,” said Eben Frankenberg, CEO at Echodyne. “The integration of our EchoFlight radar into the AiRanger is one critical piece of many in the puzzle to create the safety case for BVLOS flight operation.”

David Yoel, CEO at American Aerospace Technologies, Inc., said; “With the granting of the FAA waiver, it showcases how this entire process has been truly a multi-party collaborative endeavor and AATI is grateful to Echodyne for their steadfast and exceptional support throughout the multi-year effort. 

“Echodyne’s EchoFlight radar provides unparalleled data fidelity and precision, and this first-of-its-kind waiver is evidence of radar’s role in providing the situational awareness necessary for successful detect-and-avoid systems.”

Posted by Abi Wylie Connect & Contact
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