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An innovative detect-and-avoid radar technology was successfully tested earlier this month at the Lone Star Unmanned Aerial System Center of Excellence and Innovation at Texas A&M. University researchers worked with companies like AirRobot and Echodyne to fly three drones in the same airspace with great success.

This was reportedly the first time small unmanned aerial vehicles used onboard radar to successfully detect and monitor boat traffic in a major US waterway along with additional UAV traffic flying in the surrounding area.

Echodyne’s airborne detect-and-avoid radar was specifically developed for small to medium UAV systems to enable visual-line-of-site operations in all environments and conditions. These tests also provided NASA with enough data to improve their first-responder priority operations.

The radar thrives over other sensors in conditions like unpredictable weather, can rapidly scan a broad field of view, track Cessna-sized targets at distances greater than two kilometers, and significantly increases the situational awareness for UAS operators.

Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management Plan (UTM) was formed based on the desire for new rules and regulations in low-altitude airspace. The plan is a series of activities called “Technology Capability Levels” (TCL) with each level rising in complexity.

The drone tests were part of NASA’s TCL 2—a national campaign focusing on small, remotely-operated aircraft BVLOS in highly unpopulated areas so the project’s functional designs and UTM technology prototypes can be demonstrated, evaluated, and refined. The third phase (TCL 3) focuses on evaluating technologies maintaining safe spacing between responsive and non-responsive UAS over moderately populated areas.

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